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Historic Landmark Designation Report


									    1. Name and location of the property: Carolina Theatre, 130 South Tarboro
    Street, Wilson, North Carolina 27893

    2. Other Names: Drake Theatre

    3. Name, address, and phone number of present owner and occupants:
    Lindsey E. de Guehery, MD; Home: 1405 Kenan Street, Wilson, NC 27893;
    Work: 1812 Glendale Drive SW, Suite A, P.O. Box 3955, Wilson, NC 27893;

    4. Representative photographs of the property: Please see attached CD of digital
    images of current conditions and copies of historic photographs.

    5. Planimetric and Tax maps depicting property location: Please see attached Tax

    6. Current deed book reference: Wilson County Deed Book 2078, pages 623-625.

    7. Chain of Title:

                         Deed Book and
            Date                                   Grantor                 Grantee
       30 Dec. 2004      2078: 623; both   Charles A. Nichols       Lindsey DeGuehery,
                         lots                                       M.D.
       1996              Both lots,        Lettie Mae Lamm          Charles A. Nichols
                         through           Nichols
       1943              Both lots,        Charles Lamm             Lettie Mae Lamm
                         through                                    Nichols (daughter of
                         inheritance                                Charles)
       19 Apr. 1915      102:360; first    Moses Farmer             Charles Lamm
       20 Aug. 1929      185:246; second   First National Bank of   Charles Lamm
                         lot               Wilson

Historic Landmark Designation Report                                             Page 1
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
8. Historical sketch of the property (written)

On Monday, August 4, 1930 at 7:00 P.M., the Carolina Theatre at 128-130 South Tarboro

Street in Wilson, North Carolina had its grand opening, showing the film, “Spring is

Here,” a film “with 8 stars, 7 song hits, and 1000 laughs.” Tickets for all showings

(evening and matinee) were a quarter for adults and a dime for children.1 According to a

newspaper article following the opening, “The house was full to overflowing and

everyone was pleased.”2

The Carolina Theatre was built on two city lots owned by Charles A. Lamm (1873-1944).

Charles Lamm, and his father, Thomas Ruffin Lamm (1840-1915) had operated a store at

this location. Charles Lamm purchased an adjoining lot in 1929, most likely in

preparation for the construction of the theatre building.3

The Carolina Theatre was designed by the Wilson architectural firm of Benton & Benton,

who designed many commercial, governmental, religious, and residential buildings

throughout eastern North Carolina, including more than twenty documented buildings in

Wilson. The Wilson firm of Wilkins & Wilkins constructed the theatre, with electrical

work completed by J. F. Bridgers of Wilson, the hardware provided by Wilson Hardware

  Advertisement, Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina), 2 August 1930.
  “Carolina Theatre Desires to Thank the Public for Making Opening a Success”, Wilson Daily Times
(Wilson, North Carolina), 5 August 1930.
  Wilson County Deed Book, 185: 246; Wilson County Court House, Wilson, N.C.
Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                             Page 2
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
Company, and other building materials purchased from Carolina Builders Supply Corp.

and Williams Lumber Co. of Wilson.4

Newspaper articles and advertisements printed following the opening of the Carolina

Theatre emphasized the “wonderful sound effect” and noted that the theatre was the first

in the area built to accommodate and amplify the sound of talking pictures. The other

movie theatre in Wilson in 1930, the Wilson Theatre (now known as the Edna Earl

Boykin Theatre), was constructed prior to the advent of talking pictures, and was

retrofitted in 1926 to accommodate the new technology. According to one article,

        With perfect acoustics and the best lighting and sound equipment, and perfect
        synchronization of music, voice and light it is no wonder that everyone in the
        theatre last evening marveled at the sweetness of tone, the clearness of the sound,
        and the harmony and perfect accord in the screening of the various pictures
        presented to the patrons of the theatre.5

The Carolina Theatre was also “Cooled with Circulating Air System,” an early form of

air conditioning found primarily in movie theatres of the 1920s and 1930s. In this

system, the air was cooled by circulating air that had been fanned across large blocks of


The Carolina Theatre in Wilson was part of a larger group of Carolina Theatres that were

located throughout North Carolina, and included Carolina Theatres built in Charlotte

 Advertisements, Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina), 5 August 1930
 “Carolina Theatre Has Latest and Best Sound Equipment,” Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina),
5 August 1930.

Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                           Page 3
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
(1927), Greensboro (1927), Matthews (1926), Winston-Salem (1929), and Spruce Pine


The Carolina Theatre prospered in the 1930s and early 1940s. In 1941, the manager of

the theatre was William W. Cunningham, Jr.7 In 1943, management of the theatre

changed hands, becoming part of a chain of theatres managed by Worth Stewart and H.H.

Everett, and its name was changed to Drake.8 Stewart and Everett, a company based in

Charlotte, N.C., operated theatres throughout North and South Carolina.

By the early 1950s, there were four downtown movie theatres in Wilson, the Drake, the

Carolina (the name was acquired by a theatre in a different building), the Center

(formerly known as the Oasis), and the Wilson. During the 1940s through the mid 1960s,

the Drake played westerns, “B” movies, and cartoons. Stars of these films would

occasionally make appearances at the theatre; some of these celebrities include film stars

such as Lash Larue. Double features were shown on Wednesdays and Saturdays (the two

major shopping days in small downtowns throughout the U.S. from 1910 through the


  League of Historic American Theatres - Theatre Inventory, North Carolina Historic Theatres,; accessed 4/21/08 and “The History of the Carolina
Theatre,”; accessed 4/21/08.
  Hill’s Wilson City Directory vol. XI (Philadelphia: Hill Directory Co., Inc., 1941) 69.
  Hill’s Wilson City Directory vol. XII (Philadelphia: Hill Directory Co., Inc., 1945).

Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                              Page 4
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
By the early 1970s, attendance and profits at the Drake had declined. Commerce had

moved from downtown to the new mall, which also had a new movie theatre. The Drake

closed in 1973, and has been unoccupied since that time.

The land and building remained within the ownership of the Lamm family until 2004,

when the property was acquired by Dr. Lindsey De Guehery.

9. Architectural description of the property

Designed by the Wilson architectural firm of Benton & Benton, the Carolina Theatre is

an excellent, restrained example of the Art Deco style. The three-story, brick building

was visually divided in two sections separated by three pilasters. The three-bay,

northeast section at 128 South Tarboro Street originally contained the entrance for whites

and had a ticket booth sheltered in a recessed outer lobby. This section included the

marquee, a simple triangular shaped marquee that included the name of the theatre (at

least by 1943 when the theatre became known as the Drake) and the name of the film.

The adjoining two-bay section, at 130 South Tarboro Street was occupied by a small fruit

stand/confectionary shop and included a separate ticket office and entrance for African

Americans which led to the balcony area. The main theatre space seated approximately

400 patrons and the balcony contained approximately 200 seats.

The façade had narrow casement windows (replaced in the 1950s) decorated with brick

soldier course lintels, and cast concrete sills. Between the second and third floor
Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                    Page 5
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
windows on 128, there is a recessed, header course-edged panel and at the same location

on 130, the recessed panel has a soldier-course border. A recessed panel is located above

the third floor windows on 130 as well. The main section of the building, 128, is

emphasized visually by its greater width, the diminution of windows between the second

and third floors, and the setting off of the building by matching pilasters at the north and

south ends of the section.

By late 1951 or 1952, the exterior of the building had been painted and wooden louvers

placed in the windows, as seen in a photo of the theatre from that time period.9

 The photograph shows the movie, “The Well,” on the marquee; “The Well” dates to 1951.
Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                     Page 6
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
In the mid-1950s, fire damaged the mezzanine floor and part of the balcony and roof.

The damage was only superficial, although some blacked studs and rafters can still be

seen in the building.10

Sometime in the late 1960s, the entrance at number 128 was closed, the store at number

130 and the balcony entrance removed, and a new ticket booth was built to accommodate

both races.

Within, the theatre was also remodeled in the 1960s, although all of the significant

interior features remain, including the decorative molding creating the appearance of

panels in the auditorium, the plaster walls of the main theatre space, the Art Deco lighting

fixtures, the restrooms for both sexes of both races on the mezzanine level, the balcony

and the balcony stairs, and the stage for the screen. The lobby was altered in the 1960s

with a suspended ceiling, and a reconfiguration of the space to accommodate both races.

The seats have also been removed.

10. Documentation of how the property meets the following criteria:
      * historical, architectural, and cultural significance
      * suitability for preservation and restoration
      * educational value
      * cost of acquisition, restoration, maintenance, or repairs
      * possibilities for adaptive or alternative use of the property
      * appraised value
      * the administrative and financial responsibility of any person or organization
      willing to underwrite all or a portion of such costs
      See attached document.
  Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Wilson North Carolina: A Pictorial History (Wilson, N.C.: Wilson
Chamber of Commerce, 1993) 81. This photograph clearly shows the building painted white on the second
and third level, and a darker color at the first floor level.

Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                           Page 7
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
11. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria established
for inclusion on the National Register

The Carolina Theatre meets National Register of Historic Places Criterion A for its

significance in the area of Entertainment/Recreation and Criterion C for its architectural

significance. The Carolina Theatre is one of only two extant theatres in the city of

Wilson which once supported four active theatres downtown. Going to the movies

downtown was once a very significant activity for many Americans during the second

and third quarters of the twentieth century. Most Americans attended at least one movie

per week in the era before televisions were found in every American home.

Architecturally, the Carolina Theatre is significant as a representative example of a once

common building type, movie theatres of the late 1920s through the 1940s. Almost every

small town and city had at least one, if not many more, movie theatres during the second

quarter of the twentieth century. Only one other theatre, the Wilson (now the Edna

Boykin Cultural Center), survives in Wilson. In addition, the Carolina Theatre is a well-

preserved example of the work of Wilson’s most prominent architectural firm of the first

half of the twentieth century, Benton & Benton. The interior of the building clearly

reflects the work of Benton & Benton, and the exterior, with exception of the reworking

of the first floor, also exhibits the design work of Benton & Benton.

The Carolina Theatre is located within the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse

Historic District which was placed in the National Register of Historic Places on

December 20, 1984.
Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                   Page 8
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina
12. Documentation of why and in what ways the property is of historical importance to

Wilson or Wilson County

The Carolina Theatre is historically important to Wilson as one of two extant theatres in

the city. Attendance at the local theatres was a vital and important part of the social and

recreational life of the city. The theatre also represents the work of one of Wilson’s

significant architectural firms of the twentieth century, Benton & Benton.

13. The most recent deed description of the property: Please see attached copy of
current deed.

Historic Landmark Designation Report                                                     Page 9
Carolina Theatre
128-130 South Tarboro Street
Wilson, North Carolina

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