Lucie Stern (1871-1946)
Publication Date: Wednesday Jul 13, 1994

Lucie Stern (1871-1946)

Soon after the Palo Alto Community Players formally organized as a theater troupe in 1931, the group's tremendous success began to outgrow its base at the Community House, a multipurpose building that was moved from Menlo Park to become the city's first community center. (Today it houses the MacArthur Park restaurant.)

Any chance that the city would be able to accommodate the Players' burgeoning success with added space or another facility was precluded by the Depression. But in July 1933, Lucie Stern, the city's best-known benefactor, presented her first major gift to the city--the Palo Alto Community Theatre.

The theater became the first part of the new Community Center near Rinconada Park, at Middlefield Road and Melville Avenue. The 426-seat theater, which was renovated in the early 1980s, has hosted the Players' productions as well as many other sorts of gatherings.

Lucie Stern, known as "Palo Alto's fairy godmother," had inherited a portion of the Levi Strauss clothing empire from her husband, Louis Stern. She was particularly concerned about the welfare of youth and often entertained them at her home at 1990 Cowper St. There she had a large hall closet amply stocked with Levis and other clothing that was available to any youngster in need, including many Stanford University students.

In addition to the Community Center and theater, she also gave Palo Alto the Children's Theatre (opened in 1937), the Boy Scout headquarters and fire circle, and the Children's Library. The Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings were designed by home-grown architect Birge Clark, who also built her home and later her daughter Ruth's home at 1950 Cowper St.

--Peter Gauvin This is the 10th of a series of profiles on the "Creators of the Legacy," 56 people who are being honored this year by the Palo Alto Centennial for their roles in creating Palo Alto in all its aspects. 

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