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Allen University to restore historic Carver Theatre on Harden Street

The 80-year-old movie theater was operated for Black clientele during South Carolina's Segregation Era.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia historical landmark will have a chance to shine once again after revitalization plans have officially been announced.

Carter Theatre, located at 1515 Harden Street, will undergo renovation with plans to reopen as a first-run cinema within the next 15-18 months according to Tiana Scarlett, Director of Marketing and Communications in the Division of Institutional Advancement at Allen University.

According to information from Historic Columbia, the building was constructed in 1941 for $16,826 and was one of only two theaters built in Columbia exclusively for African American patrons during South Carolina's Segregation Era. It was named for agricultural scientist and professor at Tuskegee Institute Dr. George Washington Carver.

In a February 22, 2005 interview with News19, former owner of the Carver Theatre Julius Murray recalled talent shows and matinee movies held at the theater in the 1940s through the 1960s. At the time of purchase, Murray said 75% of the building was still original. 

"We still have the original lights and upstairs, the original seats are in place," he said.

The Carter Theatre closed in 1971 and has served as home to AGAPE Church. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Scarlett said Allen University officials overseeing the renovation are still in the planning stages. In addition to showing movies, she said the building would be used for local meetings, presentations and other entertainment.

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