Area Guide | Art + Music

Lowcountry Pastimes: The Historic Dock Street Theatre

Just a short drive from the winding waterways, maritime forests and bountiful wildlife at Kiawah River, downtown Charleston is home to an abundance of historical sights and landmarks, some of which are still in use today.

The city of Charleston has a long-standing romance with culture and the arts that dates back to its origins. Throughout the city’s long history, artistic visionaries from all over the world, including Alfred Hutty, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, have left their marks on the Holy City. From its picturesque architecture and tasteful restaurants to its enriching museums and performing arts centers, Charleston is home to a broad, artistic and cultural heritage.

One of the city’s most cherished architectural gems, the Historic Dock Street Theatre, has been entertaining Lowcountry residents and travelers alike since its opening in 1736 and is considered to be the oldest theater in the country.

As the first building in North America built solely for theatrical performances, the site has faced its fair share of challenges that nearly destroyed the building forever. During the Great Fire of 1790, the theater is believed to be one of the many buildings in Charleston’s French Quarter to burn to the ground. However, the site was rebuilt in 1805 and opened as the Planter’s Hotel. In 1935, the building was slated for demolition due to poor conditions following the Civil War. Instead, the City of Charleston designated the building as a public works project and restored the property to its former glory. The site reopened in 1937 as the Historic Dock Street Theatre.

In 1978, Charleston Stage became the resident theatrical company at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. In 2007, the City of Charleston invested in a three-year renovation project to give the theater much needed updates including: state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment. Charleston Stage reopened the theater in March 2010 and continues to perform for more than 50,000 patrons annually with over 100 performances each season.

Located at 135 Church Street, the Historic Dock Street Theatre is in the middle of Charleston’s French-Quarter neighborhood, placing it just blocks away from art galleries, museums, restaurants and parks.

Whether you live nearby and are looking for exciting live entertainment or just in town for a long weekend, the Historic Dock Street Theatre is one of the many spectacular places to soak up some of the Lowcountry’s rich history.

If you’re visiting the Charleston area in the coming weeks, don’t miss Thorton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic “Our Town,” showing at the Historic Dock Street Theatre from Feb. 5-23. For more information, showtimes and tickets, click here.


Photo by Wally Gobetz