Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts
Thalian Hall, located in Wilmington at 310 Chestnut St, Wilmington, NC 28401-4020, was built in 1855-1858 as a landmark of Wilmington, North Carolina. It is considered an outstanding example of 19th-century theatre architecture, and it’s the only surviving theater designed by John Montague Trimble, who is one of America’s foremost architects from that period. Thalian hall served many purposes, including housing town government, library, and opera house, which held 1k people or 10% percent population at the time.
Thalian Hall started its operations over 100 years ago and soon became a major source of entertainment for Wilmington. The building was used throughout the Civil War as a place to enjoy performances, but financial struggles forced it to close down temporarily until another group took over management.
This Hall was leased by several private entrepreneurs from 1860 until 1936. One of the most famous lessees, John T. Ford, changed its name to “The Opera House” and booked roadshows into Thalian Hall for five years (1867-1871).
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, some of the artists who appeared in this theatre included Lillian Russell; Buffalo Bill Cody; John Phillip Sousa; Joseph Jefferson (Maurice Barrymore was also there); Sir Henry Lauder. In addition to hosting performances by these big-name stars, between engagements, the Hall hosted many local events such as amateur concerts, recitals, meetings, etc., including roller skating.
In 1909, the theatre underwent renovations, including changing its name from “Opera House” to the now-named Thalian Hall. The side balconies were removed, and a new electric stage light was installed along with an ornate proscenium arch. Despite being refurbished, it continued serving as a roadhouse throughout most of that decade until several years when movies started playing there regularly.
In the 1920s, the Hall hosted many roadshows and was also visited by a production of The Ziegfeld Follies. But locals continued to use its stage for concerts via organizations such as Wilmington Concert Association (WCA) and 5th Thalian Association in 1929. Several attempts were made at demolition during the 1930s-1940s, but citizens always fought back. Thankfully renovations happened sometime around there too.
After a small fire in the auditorium, Thalian Hall was restored to its turn of the century appearance. Under direction by the Thalian Hall Commission Inc., it reopened and witnessed an increase in use from professional artists as well as community groups while audience attendance rose dramatically.
Thalian Hall has grown into the most attended community center in the state. The three venues host 422 events, attracting nearly 80,000 people every year since it was established twenty years ago. In addition to hosting a wide range of community programming and providing touring shows for its Main Street Attractions series that feature international performing artists, Thalian also hosts art house films through their Cinematique Film Series. As an important role in arts education locally, children are given access to educational programs at Thalian Hall as well.