History of Center Theater
Center Theater is housed in the beautiful Hartsville Community Center Building on Fifth Street. The building was a dream of the Hartsville community during The Great Depression of the early 1930s.
The Community Center Building, also known as "Building A," was one of three built on the block as part of the same project. The project also included the Hartsville Post Office, also on Fifth Street, which is now used as the Hartsville Museum. Third, the Hartsville Community Market building was built just behind the Community Center on College Avenue and now hosts the Black Creeks Arts Council.
The Hartsville Community Center is a two-story, rectangular plan building with a flat roof and parapet. The building is clad with running bond, red brick and decorative cast-stone trim. The five bay symmetrical façade features reeded pilasters with stylized capitals and a central entry bay. The entry bay has cast-stone cladding, pilasters, a pedimented parapet with stylized motifs, and a streamline marquee. The Community Market is a two-story, rectangular plan building with a flat roof and parapet. The building has a common bond, red brick cladding and cast stone trim. Three stepped planes invigorate the five bay asymmetrical façade. The façade features brick pilasters with stylized cast-stone capitals. The building has a central primary entrance set within a cast-stone surround.
Much of the project was funded by the Public Works Administration through federal loans as part of the New Deal era public projects in South Carolina. The striking art deco facades were designed by architects Lafaye & Lafaye of Columbia. Wheatley & Mobley of Augusta, Georgia, constructed the buildings.
On July 15, 1935, a ceremony was help to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for the Hartsville Community Center Building, the first building to begin construction. Inside the cornerstone was placed a sealed copper box holding a copy of the first town charter, a list of local men who died in WWI, a 30-page scrapbook of photos of early Hartsville scenes, and written histories of Hartsville. At the ceremony, A. L. M. Wiggins, chairman of the Building Commission, said,
The community center building originally held a moving-picture theater, the Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, a conference room and offices for rent, offices of the City and public works, the Hartsville Library. Tenants in the rented offices included a law office, a soda shop, and an office supply store.
The beautiful theater now holds 867 seats and is fully equipped with modern lighting and sound systems. All three buildings were listed in the National Register on June 4, 1997. Read the nomination form for inclusion into the registry.
The Hartsville Building Commission has remained a governing board since 1934 and serves to preserve the three historic buildings for the community.
Center Theater has hosted several famous artists, including Loretta Lynn (twice), Johnny Cash, The Three Stooges, and the Von Trapp Family. More recently, the theater has welcomed Edwin McCain, the Columbia Ballet's The Nutcracker Ballet, and the sold-out community fundraiser Dancing with The Stars of Darlington Country.