Dock Street Theatre – Charleston, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Charleston County Photos | Dock Street Theatre
Originally constructed in 1735, Charleston‘s Dock Street Theatre holds the distinct honor of being the first building in America designed exclusively for theatrical performances.
The original theater was located on the corner of Church and Dock Streets and opened on February 12, 1736 with a performance of George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer. The theater continued to host theatrical and musical performances, but was destroyed just four years later in The Great Fire of 1740.
The majority of the present-day structure, located at 135 Church Street, was completed in 1809 when Alexander Calder converted the remains of the theater into a hotel. The Planters Hotel was frequented by wealthy travelers and rice planters from the midlands of South Carolina. The hotel was remodeled in 1835 and received several additions, including the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns that make up its present facade. At the time it was one of the most prominent buildings in Charleston.
After the Civil War the hotel was abandoned and eventually fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that the City of Charleston and the Works Progress Administration restored the facade to its original appearance and recreated the theater inside. What once served as the hotel’s dining was transformed into the theater’s box office lobby. Modeled after those found in 18th century London playhouses, the new auditorium was constructed in the hotel’s old courtyard and featured hand-carved Cypress woodwork from local carpenters. By 1937 the restoration was complete and the Dock Street Theatre reopened on November 26th with a reprise of The Recruiting Officer.
Once again the theater served as the cultural capital of the city. It continued to do so until 2007, when the City of Charleston began their $19 million dollar renovation of the historic landmark. The three-year renovation included new lights, seating, sound, and elevators. The structural integrity of the building was also improved, making it more resistant to possible hurricanes and seismic activity. The Dock Street Theatre reopened for the third time on March 18, 2010.
Today the theater is home to the Charleston Stage Company and hosts many of the city’s notable cultural events including portions of the Spoleto Festival USA. For information on performances and showtimes, please visit Charleston Stage’s website.