Now showing: A piece of Lowcountry history - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Now showing: A piece of Lowcountry history

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CHARLESTON, S.C.(WCIV)-- Depending on your age, perhaps you spent some time watching a movie in its cozy art-deco theater or if you are a bit younger you've seen it in a popular movie set in the Lowcountry.

Charleston's American theater has been delighting movie goers and movie fans for over 70 years.

Since the 1940's, the lights of the marquee above the Lowcountry landmark have been brightening the shops, stores and restaurants of King Street.

Many of the stars of Hollywood's golden age still dawn the hallways of the historic movie house in the form of original Life Magazine covers.

Bogart, Dean, Taylor and other Hollywood royalty great you as you glide through the theater.

The American opened in 1942 and was named in honor of U.S service men and women proudly fighting overseas in World War II.

After a successful run as downtown's premiere theater, the American fell on hard times, and was taken over in 1997 by Patrick properties.

"We operated it as a movie theater for six years, and then closed it down for renovations and turned it into the private event venue that it is today," Patrick Properties C.O.O Jennifer Goldman said.

Restoring the American to its natural luster was a labor of love.  Renovations took more than a year.

Local Artists and painters were called in to re-create and recapture the American's art-deco accents and paneling.

"Everything was taken back to the original was restored to its original conditions as best we could; paint colors, décor everything we saved as much as we could," Goldman said.

Renovations to the interior quickly spread outside the American, which, according to Goldman helped galvanize the re-vitalization of upper King Street.

A movement Goldman and her team take great pride in. 

"At the time was a very transitioning neighborhood," Goldman said. "So we were looking at whether or not to make it a residential property or turn it into condos or do something commercially with it."

But when it came time to making a decision for the brass at Patrick Properties it all boiled down to a simple decision.

"You can make it residential and help a few families or you can do something commercial and help engage a community," She said.  

And engage a community they did.

The now flourishing theater plays host to private parties, weddings, engagement parties and corporate events.

It's cinema even doubles as a classroom for the Charleston School of Law.

While it showed hundreds if not thousands of movies during its long career. The American Theater became a piece of cinematic history itself with 2004's smash film The Notebook which prominently featured the American's Marquee.

The classic love story set in the Lowcountry has adopted a feverish following, which has translated into a steady business.

"What's fun to see now that it is an event space is that we had a number of brides that want to have a notebook or movie themed wedding and we are the natural spot for that," Goldman said.

The nearly florescent marquee has taken on a life of its own.

"We get everything from congratulations messages to awareness messages about events going on around town," Goldman said.  "The happy birthdays and the congratulations, the marriage proposals are the most fun."

While the curtain may have fallen on its days as a movie house, the legacy of this theater has no end.

The building also houses a Charleston police substation and is one of the few in downtown Charleston with a basement.


  • Jon Bruce

    Email: jbruce@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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