Title of Installation:
Paramount Theater Facade
Materials Used:
Ceramic tiles
Additional Materials Information:
General Description:
"For the 50-foot wide, 100-foot high Broadway facade, the architects [James R. Miller and Timothy Pflueger] conceived...a giant billboard for the performing arts. It consists of a huge projecting aluminum sign that splits two 20 by 100-foot panels carrying a mosaic of glazed tile, framed by piers in deep, oxblood red tile. Manufactured by Gladding McBean's tile specialists, the bold colors of the mosaic, when combined with the neon sign, created an extraordinarily clever and effective advertisement. This multi-color mosaic, as described by B.J.S. Cahill in The Architect and Engineer, depicts:
        'two vast figures of a man and a woman, draped in embroidered folds of an Ionian chiton down to their feet, 
        with their heads in a field of stars and stripes. These figures have their arms folded and from their fingers 
        hang a dozen strings which work the puppets and marionettes of the plays and circuses, the spectacles and
        exhibitions which make up the subjects of popular entertainment... .'

...little written evidence survives concerning...[the mosaic's]creation and the use of tile. It is recorded, however, that Gerald Fitzgerald, an artist in Miller and Pflueger's office, created the original cartoons...[for]the double murals."1

(1Gary F. Kurutz, Architectural Terra Cotta of Gladding, McBean, Windgate Press, Sausalito, CA, 1989, p. 108)

"The architectural firm of J. R. Miller and T. L. Pflueger had overall responsibility for the Paramount Theatre, but Timothy L. Pflueger was primarily responsible for its design. ...his selection as the architect for the Paramount Theatre project was based on his reputation as the designer of three extraordinary buildings in downtown San Francisco: the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company Building at 140 New Montgomery Street (1925, with A.A. Cantin) now known as the PacBell Building, the Medical and Dental Building at 450 Sutter Street (1930), and the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange at Bush and Sansome Streets (1930). ...A timely juxtaposition of events lay behind Pflueger's concept for the Paramount Theatre. First, there was the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925 in Paris, which promulgated the contemporary style that so appealed to Pflueger. ...[Also,]The thriving renaissance of the fine arts in the Bay Area provided Pflueger with an unusually gifted pool of talent upon which to draw. Even more significant was the architect's enthusiastic appreciation of art and his ability to select his sources judiciously and interpret them creatively. ...Pflueger and [Diego] Rivera were boon companions during the latter's stay in San Francisco from 1930 to 1934, and while Rivera was not directly responsible for the facade mosaic of the Paramount Theatre, his influence may be seen in the majestic monumentality of the two figures in it as well as in its use of earth colors."2 

(2Taken from and

"Gerald Fitzgerald designed the cartoons from which the mosaics on the facade of the Paramount Theatre were made and was also the designer of the "fountain of light," the large (almost 35-foot-high) illuminated carved glass composition that is the principal decorative feature of the entrance end of the grand lobby. It was from Fitzgerald's preliminary designs that Robert Boardman Howard prepared the bas-relief sculptural panels of the auditorium, and Fitzgerald was also responsible for the auditorium and grand lobby ceiling designs. He studied architecture at the University of California at Berkeley and was a member of the Miller and Pflueger staff until the late 1930s. He served as an office consultant on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge project and was referred to by Pflueger as "a brilliant young artist." Data on his career after his leaving the Pflueger firm have not been found."3 

(3Taken from

"The mosaic is composed of two pictorial panels approximately 100' high separated by the projecting sign and bordered at the outer edges by almost 5'-wide bands of five rows of chevron-profiled maroon tiles ascending to a height of over 80'. 

The left-hand (south) panel represents a maroon-robed male figure frontally posed against a gold background. Behind the head are three green-bordered blue horizontal bands bearing red-orange maroon-bordered gold-rayed five-pointed stars. The hair (or cap) is rendered in maroon, is square-cut across the brow, and bears a blue, green, and red-orange ornament. A maroon collar studded with three red-orange stars connects across the exposed collar-bone area with the robe. The face, neck, and hands are gold, the facial lines being indicated in black. The hands, crossed across the chest at their wrists, each hold three gold puppet strings. The shoulders and yoke of the robe are ornamented in blue and green with touches of yellow, and the hem has gold lines and a gold meander with tendrils of blue, green, and peach. Green-soled sandals with gold thongs are on the figure's maroon feet.

Except for the hair, the softer lines of the face, the necklace, yoke of the robe, brooch, and the somewhat more slender hands, the female figure on the right-hand (north) panel is precisely like its male counterpart. The maroon hair falls in four strands and curls slightly at the shoulder line. A band of blue and rose yellow-centered flowers ornaments the hair, the necklace is red and green with a green pendant, and the brooch below the green-trimmed yoke of the robe is blue, yellow, and mustard-color with a center of darker blue. 

Each figure manipulates four tiers of puppets costumed in a multiplicity of bright colors. In the upper tier of the south panel, a young satyr crouches before a girl in a flowered peasant costume, a girl holding a bird rides a deer, a dancing girl brandishes a branch, and a man dances at her right. Below those fairy-tale figures are a pair of boxers, and three women evidently representing tennis, swimming, and golf. The third tier from the top contains a cowboy with his horse and dog, a man firing a rifle, and a war-bonneted Indian with a tomahawk. The bottom tier represents five variously costumed female dancers including one in a tutu who executes a high kick. The uppermost tier of the north panel represents a red-coated soldier in red shako, gold cloak, white breeches, and blue boots who holds up a blue sword, a seminude girl riding a dragon, a fawn nibbling foliage, and a seminude woman bearing a basket of fruit on her head. Harlequin and Columbine, a Panpipe-playing satyr, and a man and woman masquerading in 18th-century costume occupy the second tier down. The tier below contains a seminude female snake charmer, a brown animal trainer in white shorts wrestling with his bear, a geisha, and a dancing sailor, and the bottom tier depicts five dancing women, one with an airily floating scarf."4 

(4Taken from, excerpted from Historic American Buildings Survey Document No. CA-1976, pp 21-25)

Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):
"A Pflueger office press release suggested a possible total of 70 different colors in the mosaic. Most of the maroon and gold areas are formed of square tesserae. The tiles of other colors are mostly irregular in shape and are cut to fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle."4
Year Created:
Year Installed, if different:
Does Installation Still Exist?
Yes. The theater is now the home of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and is a venue for a variety of cultural events. In 1976 the Paramount was added to the National and California Registers of Historic Places. (Historic plaque photo:
Location of Installation:
2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA
GPS Coordinates:
37°48′34″N 122°16′05″W
Additional Information, Websites, Citations:
Color photo (top) courtesy of Michael Padwee.
Submitted by and Year:
Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101'at' in January 2012.