By Jim Tortolano
Long a landmark in the civic center area, Donald R. Wash Memorial Auditorium on Stanford Avenue on the Garden Grove High School campus has – for more than six decades – hosted meetings, assemblies, concerts and plays for students and others. On Wednesday the curtain went up on the venerable facility’s second act with the ribbon-cutting for a new and improved building.
“It’s amazing that we are all here today,” quipped Margie Brown, director of facilities for the Garden Grove Unified School District, which serves not only most of Garden Grove but also parts of Anaheim, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Stanton and Westminster. “Some of us … thought this day would never come. But we are excited to say, we are done.”
Built in 1955 and dedicated in 1956, the facility opened with 1500 seats and served not only GGHS but also eventually all of the GGUSD. It’s also been the home venue for beauty pageants, classical music concerts, community gatherings and even one opera performance.
Refurbished with bond issue money, the new Don Wash is more modern and comfortable, but a bit smaller in capacity. Chief among the renovations are the installation of an air conditioning system – considered a luxury in the mid-Fifties – and greater accessibility for the disabled.
Ramps, new restrooms and small elevators has been added to comply with modern construction laws for handicapped access, and the result is that the facility now seats around 1,100 people, still one of the largest school auditoriums in Orange County.
Entrance to the building has been re-oriented to face onto Stanford Avenue, replacing two side entry areas that had run parallel to the street.
On hand to celebrate the opening and ribbon-cutting were school board members and district officials, city leaders, members of the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association and others.
Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones spoke, saying the renovated Don Wash was another example of exciting things happening in the central part of the city. He mentioned the Cottage Industries, Steelcraft, rock concerts and other projects that could help revitalize the city’s civic center-downtown area.
“This reopening of the venue, this area is just ripe for new things, new entertainment, and we wish the school district a tremendous amount of success with this facility and we want to be part of it at the city,” said Jones.
Following remarks by school and civic leaders, GGHS student body officers conducted guests on a tour of the facility.