That was 2004 and, as of this writing, the Miller Theater is still vacant. However, it has not become a total loss, nor is it still for sale. The building changed hands and was finally purchased by the Miller Theater, LLC, a subsidiary of Symphony Orchestra Augusta. There are big plans for it, including a projected re-opening date during the 2014/2015 season. If you want to read more about the history of the Miller Theater (or about as much as I’ve ever known) you can find my original post HERE.
More recently, I've learned that the building is constructed mostly of concrete and heavy gauge steel reinforcements. Some of the theater’s supporting beams are the largest ever shipped by rail in the state of Georgia. Like I said, the place is big. It was built to hold 1600 seats. Because of this sturdy construction, the structure remains in very good shape. There are still the cosmetic problems I saw in 2004, but apparently nothing that jeopardizes overall integrity or, importantly, would require a massive infusion of cash to fix.
Since the Miller Theater was a movie and vaudeville house when it opened in 1940, the stage is a traditional proscenium style and too small for modern performances. It will be enlarged to twice its original size and
The Imperial Theater? Yes, Augusta does already have an historic fully restored theater just steps away from the Miller. Designed by the famous architect G. Lloyd Preacher in the Victorian Renaissance style and opened as the Wells Theater in 1917, the Imperial is quite nice indeed. Of course, there has been some commentary about the difficulties Augusta might face in trying to support TWO historic theaters, but surely this shouldn’t be a real problem for the second most populous city in Georgia. Frank Miller once operated five theaters in downtown Augusta alone, including both the Miller and Imperial. In any case, the Miller has real potential and to let it become a “total loss,” as nearly happened, seems pretty much unacceptable.
Symphony Orchestra Augusta is excited about the re-opening of the Miller Theater and they should be.
This is the last of four posts on historic buildings visited during the 2012 Augusta Photography Festival. Thanks to the festival and the Miller Theater, LLC for providing ample time and somewhat better lighting to explore the place this go-round. Most information was taken from material provided by Symphony Orchestra Augusta. We'll start 2013 with a quick and much more depressing return visit to the historic Goodale Inn, built in 1799. If fast action is taken there may be hope yet for one of the oldest unaltered buildings in Georgia.