While the exact date of the original Canton Theatre is not known, it is believed that it was opened between 1911 and 1913 to offer the emerging genre of silent films and slideshows to the town populace.
Perhaps the patrons who walked or arrived in their Model T Fords were entertained by the strains of an organ as they watched the flickering images on the screen of the theater.
No doubt an evening watching movies at the theater was exciting and memorable for the folks who lived in Canton at the time.
The beautiful Art Deco renovation of the theater by the city of Canton about 10 years ago reflects something of what the style might have been at the time the theater first opened.
The red velvet wall hangings, the polished brass, the beautiful etched glass are all reminiscent of those early days, when every town hopes to have a moving picture show to grace its Main Street.
Today’s incarnation of the Canton Theatre is certainly something for the residents of Canton to be proud of.
The investment made by the city in purchasing and renovating the historic property is paying off by bringing a variety of plays, performances, magic shows, drama camps and musical performances to downtown.
The Canton Downtown Development Authority recently joined forces with Shady Grove Events to bring the gospel music performances to the downtown venue.
Tim Moxley, David Kight and Gerry Hall will open the series on July 23 with an evening of exceptional Southern Gospel. They will perform selections from Shady Grove’s new CD “Front Porch Swing.’
Other top-notch gospel groups scheduled to perform this year at the Canton Theatre include the McKarneys on Mark on Aug. 26, the Kingsman on Sept. 24, Brian Free and Assurance on Nov. 18 and the Isaacs on Dec. 30.
I remember clearly the first time I ever attended a movie at the Canton Theatre.
I was 3 years old and the movie was Walt Disney’s “Snow White.”
I was frightened by the red velvet curtains and what I feared might be behind them as much as I was by the witch in the movie.
But it wasn’t long before I was back to see “Bambi” and clutch my mother’s hand and cry as fire swept the forest where the little deer lived.
By the time I was a teenager, the theater had been renovated and was decorated in beautiful gold furnishings.
It certainly was nothing like the Fox Theater in Atlanta, but for those of us who live in Canton at the time, we thought it was really something special.
It was there in the dark theater that I came of age watching Elvis movies, the Beatles and shows about the British music invasion.
I eagerly came to see James Bond movies, much to my mother’s dismay, and a variety of other movie offerings in the 1960s.
But eventually the popularity of the downtown theater waned as people began to go to the malls in the movie theaters located there.
The older downtown Canton Theatre fell out of vogue and into disrepair.
The beautiful gold furnishings were tattered and torn and eventually, as years went by, the roof caved in and only the pigeons occupied the once elegant theater.
By the 1990s, instead of the theater being a centerpiece of downtown, it was the city’s eyesore.
The once proud building was boarded up, open from above to the elements, and only a sad remnant of what it once was.
I am so glad that it is been offered a new life and historically preserved for future generations to remember what downtown Canton was once like — and is again.
Downtown Canton is flourishing and growing. If you haven’t been there in a while, this summer is a great time to visit and catch one of the fabulous upcoming gospel shows.
You can check out the restaurants and the shops or just stroll through Canton Park and enjoy the beauty of the historic downtown area.
We in Cherokee County are lucky to have five wonderful cities, each different and special in its own way.
Each downtown has its own unique buildings, ambience and offerings.
That is part of what makes Cherokee County such a great place to live.
We have a wonderful past, an exciting present and a promising future.
Rebecca Johnston is former editor of the Cherokee Tribune.