Renovation at the Dock Street Theater

Among the most skillfully preserved sites in Charleston has been the Dock Street Theater on Church Street. The building dates to the turn of the 19th century, where the Planters Hotel was built as a replacement for the old theater building that had faced Queen Street, formerly Dock Street. Refitted with a façade of brownstone columns and cast iron balcony in the 1850’s, the hotel became the most posh accommodation in the city, but closed after the Civil War. Fortunes of the area suffered and the old structure looked drab and run-down until the city got Federal money during the New Deal to refurbish it. Commissioning architects to use historic drawings and plans, the city reestablished a colonial-era theater inside the old hotel that was renamed the Dock Street Theater and reopened for performances in 1937. Part of the project included salvaging hand-carved woodwork from the 1799 Radcliffe-King mansion on Meeting Street, which was torn down to build a college gymnasium. A new renovation on the theater was just completed by the city in April, 2010, restoring its fabled brownstones, terra cotta courtyard tiling, and the outstanding details of the old Radcliffe-King House featured in theater lobbies and ancillary rooms. Visitors can enjoy entering the theater for free on weekdays to marvel at the stunning theater that displays the emblem of the English kings above its intimate stage and charming balconies. The old building is much like entering a colonial mansion as well, as the ornate woodwork, fashioned by hand in the 1790’s, is as lustrous today as ever.   

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