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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Newly renovated Newberry Opera House
Newly renovated Newberry Opera House Photo courtesy Newberry House Foundation

Newberry Opera House

Renovation of an imposing French Gothic "opera house" in 1998 was the center of a successful community revitalization effort for downtown Newberry.

After losing its textile and lumber industries, the small town of 11,000 was slowly dying. Following the closing of its last main business, Belks Department Store, in 1994, most of the historic eight-block downtown area was empty and deteriorating. Civic leaders believed that restoring Newberry's most notable structure would inspire similar projects in the area. More than six million dollars in private money and grants was raised to fund the restoration project, conducted by the Craig Caulden Davis architectural firm.

The original 1882 "opera house" had been designed by by G.L. Norman as a community and civic building in a style unique to the period. The first floor housed two stores, a fire station, a council chamber, clerk's office, and a police office with three cells. The second floor held a performance hall and stage. The building's renovation devoted the entire building to its function as a theater. The first floor was redesigned with two grand entrance lobbies, restrooms, a catering area, and a box office. On the second floor are 427 theater seats that are historic reproductions, a proscenium stage, and a horseshoe balcony.

As planned, the opera house project inspired other renovation in the area, including the bank and courthouse buildings. After half of the downtown structures were restored, the city formed an architectural review board. Now downtown has a bistro, shops, restaurants, a bed and breakfast, and apartments.

Since its reopening, musical performances at the Newberry Opera House have ranged from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, Rossini's The Barber of Seville, and Strauss' Die Fledermaus, to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Vienna Boys Choir, Judy Collins, The Lettermen; and Glenn Campbell.

Documentation includes numerous newspaper and magazine articles, promotional material, and posters.

Originally submitted by: Ernest F. Hollings, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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