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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; 252-291-5864; email@example.com 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 Map 6. Current deed book reference: Wilson County Deed Book 2078, pages 623-625. 7. Chain of Title: Deed Book and Date Grantor Grantee Page 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 inheritance 1943 Both lots, Charles Lamm Lettie Mae Lamm through Nichols (daughter of inheritance Charles) 19 Apr. 1915 102:360; first Moses Farmer Charles Lamm lot 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 1 Advertisement, Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina), 2 August 1930. 2 “Carolina Theatre Desires to Thank the Public for Making Opening a Success”, Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina), 5 August 1930. 3 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 ice. 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 4 Advertisements, Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, North Carolina), 5 August 1930 5 “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 (1937).6 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 1970s). 6 League of Historic American Theatres - Theatre Inventory, North Carolina Historic Theatres, http://www.lhat.org/theatre_inventory/NC.asp; accessed 4/21/08 and “The History of the Carolina Theatre,” http://www.theatreorgans.com/nc/metrolina/carolina/historyoftheatre.html; accessed 4/21/08. 7 Hill’s Wilson City Directory vol. XI (Philadelphia: Hill Directory Co., Inc., 1941) 69. 8 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 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. 10 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
"Historic Landmark Designation Report"