Tag Archives: Georgia Theatres & Auditoriums

Georgia Theatre, Athens

My daytime shot doesn’t really do this Athens icon justice, but when I was hanging out with my favorite local photographer at the Globe the night before, it never crossed my mind. [I’ll see if I can find some other, older shots]. But I digress.

Located on North Lumpkin Street in the heart of downtown, the Georgia Theatre has been, along with the 40 Watt Club, one of the centers of the thriving Athens music scene for many years. “Athens music scene” means different things to different people, but the Georgia Theatre has covered all the bases, hosting local favorites, as well as nationally known acts of all genres.

Opened in the late 1930s* the Georgia Theatre has had a varied history, both as a movie and live music venue. Various owners and even name changes have been a part of the chronology. After being gutted by fire on 19 June 2009, it was rebuilt using the original walls, soon thereafter and remains a beloved landmark.

*- A comment by Joe Vogel on Cinema Treasures incorporates an interesting primary source: An article in the October 13, 1936 issue of Film Daily listed 22 theaters either recently opened or under construction in Georgia, and the Georgia Theatre at Athens was among them. It was opened by Lucas & Jenkins, who already had the Palace Theatre in Athens. The article didn’t specify which houses had already opened, so the Georgia might not have opened until early 1937.

Imperial Theatre, 1918, Augusta

The Imperial Theatre was designed by Lloyd Preacher and nationally prominent theatre architect Claude K. Howell for Augusta entertainment entrepreneur Jake Wells. Howell was influenced by Louis Sullivan, as the Sullivanesque style would suggest. It opened on 18 February 1918 with B. F. Keith’s Supreme Vaudeville Company as the house troupe. On 18 April 1918 Charlie Chaplin appeared on the stage selling Liberty war bonds.

A quarantine brought on by the 1918 flu pandemic caused the shutdown of all public spaces in downtown Augusta by early autumn and this created financial difficulties for Wells, who sold the theatre to Lynch Enterprises. The quarantine was soon lifted and by the end of the year the Wells had become the Imperial.

The theatre underwent a partial remodel by Roy A. Benjamin in 1936 and continued to show films until 1981. It reopened as a performing arts space in 1985 and is presently undergoing further renovation.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Miller Theater, 1940, Augusta

The Miller Theater, a landmark of the Art Moderne style, opened in 1940 and was one of Augusta’s busiest entertainment venues. It was the work of architect Roy A. Benjamin, who also designed the San Marco and Florida [with R. E. Hall] Theatres in Jacksonville, the Marion Theatre in Ocala, and the Sarasota Opera House, among others. The Three Faces of Eve, a popular movie starring Georgia native Joanne Woodward, and based on the bestselling book by Augusta psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, premiered at the Miller in 1957. Years of decline followed its closure as a first-run movie house in 1984, but community involvement and a $25 million renovation made its reopening in 2018 possible.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

DeSoto Theatre, 1929, Rome

O. C. Lam, who operated several theatres in the region, opened the DeSoto Theatre on 5 August 1929. Employing the new Vitaphone system, it was the first in the South to feature “talkies”. It served as a first-run theatre until closing in 1982. After extensive restoration, it is again a showplace for Rome, hosting numerous events each year and serving as the home of the Rome Little Theatre.

Between the Rivers Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

City Hall & Auditorium, 1916, Rome

A. Ten Eyck Brown designed Rome’s City Hall and Auditorium and it remains the largest municipal auditorium in the region. Over the years many luminaries have appeared on its stage, including: John Phillip Sousa, William Jennings Bryan, John and Ethel Barrymore, Dean Martin, and Loretta Lynn. It is also home to the Rome Symphony Orchestra, the oldest such organization in the Southeast.

Between the Rivers Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Municipal Auditorium, 1915, Albany

As Albany grew, cultural events became more prominent in the community. These pursuits were led by Dr. N. A. Duncan, a native of Syracuse, New York, who purchased a plantation near Albany in 1888. Dr. Duncan formed the Albany Chautauqua Society and his work in promoting the movement culminated in the construction of the Municipal Auditorium in 1915. Atlanta architect A. Ten Eyck Brown created a radically progressive design for the structure. With its large blank walls punctuated by smaller windows, the space was very unusual and “modern” for its time.

The auditorium was abandoned in 1972. After much-needed renovations, it reopened in 1990, with native son Ray Charles headlining the event.

National Register of Historic Places

Bridge House, Circa 1857, Albany

This unassuming structure on the banks of the Flint River in downtown Albany is significant as the only surviving bridge house in Georgia, a relic of a time when bridges were huge moneymakers for those who financed them. This example was commissioned by the Connecticut-born entrepreneur and founder of Albany, Nelson Tift, circa 1857-1858. The second floor was known as Tift’s Hall and served as a concert and performance space.

An even greater aspect of the structure’s significance is that it, and the bridge it served, were built by Horace King, who rose from slavery to become a highly successful architect and Reconstruction-era Alabama state representative. He was one of the most respected men of color in the 19th-century South.

The Bridge House was purchased by A .P. Keenan in 1916 and served a commercial use for much of the 20th century, first as the Empire Smithing Company and later as Keenan Auto Parts. Since 2008, it has been home to the Albany Welcome Center.

National Register of Historic Places

Robert Byrd Wright, Jr., House, 1961, Moultrie

This imposing villa was built by the nationally-renowned Moultrie architect William Frank McCall, Jr., for his friend Robert Byrd “Brother” Wright, Jr. It is more than just an unusually formal home for South Georgia; its facade was rescued from the old Paramount Theatre, an Atlanta landmark designed by the great classicist Philip Trammell Shutze. The Paramount, which opened in 1920 as the Howard Theatre, was demolished in 1960. A wonderful book about the house and its quirky history, Twice Told Tales of a Southern Palazzo, was written by McCall’s nephew, John Clark McCall, Jr. John has been a delightful correspondent and very helpful in sharing the legacy of his uncle Frank.

Grand Theatre, 1924, Cartersville

 
Cartersville Downtown Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Lanier Building, 1884, West Point

When constructed by brothers Lanier and Ward Crockett Lanier in 1884, this commercial block was the tallest building in town, at three stories. A bank and several other businesses occupied the first floor. The general offices of the West Point Manufacturing Company were located on the second floor until the 1950s. The third floor served as the city’s 600-seat opera house; it was destroyed by a tornado on 28 March 1920 and was never rebuilt.

West Point Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places