City of Harlem working to restore historic Old Columbia Theatre


HARLEM, Ga. (WJBF) – There could be new life for an old theater in downtown Harlem.

If you’ve driven through the city of Harlem, chances are you’ve seen the sign.

Built in the late1940’s, the Old Columbia Theatre used to be a hot spot.

Now, it sits empty.

But, the city is working with an architect to fill the vacant space.

Plans include moving the Laurel and Hardy Museum into the old movie house.

“And we will also have, what I would call, a boutique theater. We feel it’s important to have a little bit of it functioning as a theater,” said City Administrator Brett Cook.

Cook says it will also be used as a Welcome Center in the downtown area.

Cook adds there’s also a bigger plan to tie the theater in with the library.

“We have a lot of green space there and right now it’s underutilized. But we’re planning to use some of the grounds adjacent to the theater for possibly outdoor dining, maybe a small amphitheatre,” said Cook.

That’s music to Deborah Stickney’s ears.

“It’s a great building and we want to see it come alive and hopefully bring in some actual theater or live entertainment,” said Stickney.

As a business owner in Harlem, Stickney hopes to help serve some of the foot traffic the restoration brings.

“I think it would be great to serve coffee and caffienate the community while they’re enjoying live entertainment. It would be very great for business,” said Stickney.

“We’re a small downtown so a little bit of investment has a ripple effect. So, we’re excited about it. It’s going to bring a lot of focus to downtown Harlem,” said Cook.

Cook says Columbia County is helping with some of the funding to restore the theater.

Cook hopes to start construction this upcoming year and have it ready for people to enjoy by the summer.

NewsChannel 6 will continue to keep you updated on the theater’s progress.

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