The Southern Theatre opened its doors in 1896 and is the oldest surviving theater in Central Ohio and one of the oldest in the entire state. The venue was created after a series of fires destroyed Columbus’ theatre houses, and a group of businessmen decided to develop the south side of downtown with a new, fashionable hotel and venue. When they opened the theatre in 1896 and the hotel a year later, it was called the Great Southern Fireproof Hotel and Opera House. One of the theatre’s most notable features deviated from typical opera house design. From the proscenium opening, a series of concentric arches radiate into the house, creating an excellent acoustic system. The theatre was created to be self-sufficient, gathering its water supply from three wells on site. The Southern Theatre was also one of the first commercial buildings that used and generated its own electricity, with the six arches fanning out over the orchestra lined with light bulbs.
When the Southern Theatre was gifted to the CAPA, it drove a massive grassroots campaign for its renovation, similar to the Ohio Theatre. After $10 million in donations, which includes the State of Ohio and private donations that made up more than half the pie, the Southern Theatre opened in 1998. Today, it is home to Opera Columbus, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Chamber Music Columbus, and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
Post cover photo from WackoJackO via Wikimedia Commons.