Next on our open house tour of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts theatre tour is the Southern Theatere This theatre opened September 21, 1896 and is Columbus’ oldest existing theatre and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When fire destroyed five downtown theatres between 1889 and 1893, businessmen came together and decided to build a new and improved fireproof hotel and hotel and opera house, the Southern opera house and hotel, starting in 1894.
It was also one of the first commercial buildings to use electricity which it generated itself and had it’s own water supply from three wells in the basement. They made sure when constructing this theatre to assure natural acoustics and there are no obstructing columns supporting the balconies; they are supported by steel cantilevers. The Southern has seen the likes of W.C. Fields, Isadora Duncan, and John Phillip Sousa perform under its roof. By 1931 though it became a full time movie house. After struggling with paying for it’s renovations, the original owners, the Lazurus family, sold it to a realtor who had the intentions of turning it into apartments. That never came to fruition and in 1979 this old opera house closed.
In 1986 new owners made a gift of the theater to CAPA which, after studies and then fund raising from the public and private sector, the 14 month renovations began which changed the Southern from seating 1,723 to 925 and into the beauty that it is today. Now it hosts concerts and performances by artists and is home to Opera Columbus, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Chamber Music Columbus, and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Read more about it’s history here.
While more of an intimate venue than the prior theater and the following one, it is still a precious gem from the past entertaining music lovers of the present. There’s one jazz musician scheduled to perform here that we may just come and see.
View of the stage
Behind the stage
How they get things to go up and down
Next on our tour is the Ohio theatre and just wait until you see it’s chandeliers!