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Charleston Architects' Redesign of Classic Marquee Makes National List
The Atlanta Cities names Sottile Theatre marquee one of North America's most distinctive.
The Sottile Theatre is a performing arts venue for the College of Charleston and the Charleston community. It opened in 1927, originally named the Gloria Theater, it served as both a vaudeville house and movie theater. It was designed as a smaller example of the great movie palaces of the era. "Gone with the Wind” premiered in South Carolina in the Gloria Theater in 1939.
The theater’s owners, the Sottile family and Pastime Amusement Company, dismantled the original marquee in 1951 and put a new one up. The theater closed in 1975 and the owners subsequently donated the building to the College of Charleston. After extensive renovations, the theater reopened in 1990 as the College’s performing arts center.
After a truck hit the second marquee, College leaders decided to replace it. The new marquee, which cost $107,000, is narrower than the original to avoid such accidents on Charleston's narrow downtown streets.
In December of 2010, the Charleston Post & Courier called the new marquee “a blast from the past.” Monica Scott, the college's vice president for facilities planning, said of Powers’ and Logan's redesign, "It's so classic. And it's spectacular at night."
College President George Benson told the Post and Courier, “The marquee gives the college a presence on King Street, a bustling street with many shops and restaurants.”
“If you're into cities, urban history, or even typefaces, it's hard to ignore a theater marquee,” writes Mark Byrnes, a Fellow at The Atlantic Cities. “These architectural appendages have lured us into plays and movies for decades, but changing tastes and technologies have made them a more uncommon sight. As they become more rare, old marquees have taken on a deeper cultural meaning, frequently serving as visual anchors for a street or cultural district.”
Published by The Atlanta Media Company/Atlantic Magazine, The Atlantic Cities: Place Matters explores the most innovative ideas and pressing issues facing today’s global cities and neighborhoods. For more information:
Whitney Powers, AIA, is the founder and principal of Studio A, Inc. in Charleston. Studio A is an award-winning, full-service architecture firm that specializes in sustainable architecture and historic preservation/