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Today In Charleston History: February 12 – Charleston Firsts

1736

Constructed on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now known as Queen Street), the Dock Street Theatre was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. On February 12, 1736 the Dock Street Theatre opened with a performance of The Recruiting Officer, a 1706 comedic play by Irish writer George Farquhar. The second work featured in the theater was the ballad opera, Flora, of Hob in the Well after its successful performance the year before at Shepheard’s Tavern.

The Great Fire of 1740 destroyed the original Dock Street which was replaced in 1809 by the Planter’s Hotel on the same site. In 1835 the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns of the Church Street facade were added. The Planter’s became one of the finest hotels in the South. Most histories of Charleston claim that the famous drink, Planter’s Punch, was first served here, but that is not true, as is common among many Charleston “legends.”  

After the War (Between the States), the Planter’s Hotel fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. But in 1935, the original building became a Depression Era WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. The hotel’s grand foyer became the foyer of the new theatre and the hotel’s dining room now serves as the box office lobby.

On March 18, 2010, the Dock Street Theatre reopened for the third time after a three year, $19 million dollar renovation by the City of Charleston which included state-of-the-art lighting and sound, modern heating and air conditioning.

dock street = two views

Dock Street Theater: TOP: view of the building circa 1835 as the Planters Hotel. BOTTOM: Modern view of the theater.

 

 

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