Garden Theater

371 King Street,
Charleston, SC 29403

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1234 on July 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm

To get an idea of what the Garden looked like, go to the Rylander Theater Americus, Georgia. C.K.Howell also designed the Rylander which opened a couple of years after the Garden. He used many of the same decorative elements in both theaters, The plaster work around the stage, the organ chambers and the grills in the ceilings. In the Garden, he has the dancing maidens above the organ grills, At the Rylander they are above the stage opening. Fortunately the Rylander has been restored(1999) and is in operation.

longislandmovies on December 19, 2007 at 8:40 am

The Anerican is to close feb 2008..

reccaphoenix on November 12, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Urban Outfitters did a nice job in restoring most interesting architectural decorative elements of the Garden, and they have the money to control the periodic flooding in the basement.
I went to several (theater) performances at the Garden, the seating was abysmal. There wasn’t enough slope so you couldn’t see the stage properly, and the seats were all cramped together. The building was starting to look pretty shabby as well.
The Garden hadn’t shown movies in years and yes, it’s sad there’s no more movie theaters in downtown Charleston but the seating would’ve made this a lousy one.

John Coles
John Coles on June 19, 2007 at 5:22 am

The American Theatre has been made into a two-screen theater with a nice bar in the former balcony. I was told there are plans to restore it to something like its 1942 appearance. I believe it will be used mostly for live theater performances. The theater has a web site at

longislandmovies on June 18, 2007 at 7:26 pm


longislandmovies on June 18, 2007 at 7:26 pm


John Coles
John Coles on June 17, 2007 at 8:10 am

Hi Long Islander – I just wanted to make an observation. The marquee you saw on King Street was not the Garden Theatre marquee but was the marquee for the Gloria Theatre. The Gloria Theatre was in the same block as the Garden Theatre which lost its marquee many years ago. part of Barton’s Candy Store occupies what was once the King Street entrance to the theatre. The Gloria Theatre still exists as the Sottile Theatre with a new entrance on George Street.

longislandmovies on June 16, 2007 at 9:16 pm

passed theater tonight marquee looks good ..retail store inside…old bartons candy store sign still up on theaters store front..

Patsy on January 9, 2006 at 4:26 am

Lost Memory: I just read your organ data for the former Garden Theatre. Does anyone know where it is now or if it still exists? John: Weight in if you have any additional information. Since you didn’t mention seeing an organ while at Urban Outfitters I assume there wasn’t one being played while shoppers were browsing like in Philadelphia at the former Wannamaker store. BTW, have you or anyone been to that location to hear the organ that is played? I met a young man 2 summers ago who has played that organ and he was so very proud of that fact and should be. He works for the Riviera Theatre in N. Tonawanda NY which was the hometown of Wurlitzer for many years. In the Riviera is the orginally restored Wurlitzer organ that was used as a demo to customers interested in purchasing one of the world’s finest organs! If I could I’d love to travel back in time and see all of the grand theatres of Lamb and Eberson and Rapp and Rapp of the 20’s in their prime and grand opening nights!

Patsy on January 9, 2006 at 4:20 am

Thank you…I think! What a well written commentary except for the box label you found in the balcony. So sad that that age group would even consider walking in that store and buying something as if to say what you have done Urban Outfitters is okay with us! I recall reading on CT about a former theatre in Seattle that is now a Banana Republic so it would be interesting to read someone’s onsite commentary of that store, too. The exterior facade of the former Garden Theatre makes such a statement and I’m so disappointed that when I was in Charleston and drove by I didn’t realize what it had been so didn’t stop to investigate! The facade really made an impression with me and I knew that it had been something, but wasn’t even thinking of it having been a theatre as I had just visited the Riviera and the American so didn’t realize there had been another theatre nearby. BTW, when did Urban Outfitters come to Charleston and set up business? And if I had been there the day you stopped I would have had to control myself for wanting to make a remark about what used to be there at that King Street location!

John Coles
John Coles on January 9, 2006 at 3:31 am

Basically, they saved the ornamental plaster work and used it to frame store displays. They removed the upper office spaces and left the rough exposed floor beams for a “bombed-out” look. Their “goal” is available on their web site. In part, it says, “Our goal at Urban Outfitters is to be the brand of choice for well-educated, urban-minded young adults. We accomplish our objective by creating a differential shopping experience, which creates an emotional bond with the 18 to 30 year old target customer we serve. Our stores offer a unique and eclectic mix of fashion merchandise in a lifestyle sensitive store environment.” I did have one emotional experience but I wouldn’t call it “bonding.” In the balcony, where I once enjoyed an excellent performance of “Mikado” I found a box labeled “F*CK THIS.” I think it was a box of shoes but I didn’t examine it closely. As you might guess, I’m way over 30.

Patsy on January 8, 2006 at 1:37 pm

“They used the existing architectural elements to promote their products….” Please explain in more detail. Thanks.

John Coles
John Coles on January 8, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Patsy: We went into what was once the Garden Theatre shortly after Thanksgiving. It is a tragedy. Urban Outfitters is not to blame. They never claimed to be sensitive to local history. They used the existing architectural elements to promote their products and make their customers feel like they are in a unique retail space. The local citizens and preservationists in Charleston should feel very sad and guilty for losing this wonderful old theatre. Good to hear from you. Hope you have a great 2006.

Patsy on January 8, 2006 at 11:51 am

John: Long time no speak, but here I am to say hello. Hope you had a wonderful holiday season. I can’t believe the Garden Theatre is now a retail space as it had such a rich theatrical history with Al Jolson performing on its stage in the 20’s! When I was there I recall driving by the building and at the time didn’t realize what it had been so missed the opportunity to stop and go inside.

John Coles
John Coles on October 6, 2005 at 4:54 am

Dear lostmemory, I’d love to know more about the Moller at the Garden Theater. I did know there was an organ installed at the Wonderland Theatre in Charleston, SC in 1909 but don’t know anything more about it.

Patsy on April 22, 2005 at 5:06 am

Matt: Always nice to read a post from you, our Savannah Theatre Jukebox Journey Man! Please email me at as I wish to discuss a future trip to Savannah in the fall. Thanks. and I’m excited that our area will, for the first time, get the RCMH’s Christmas Spectacular!!

mattmeece on April 21, 2005 at 11:06 pm

I have seen the Charleston Christmas Show, they do an excellent job! Brad and his wife are both really talented. They actually came down to see our previous show “Lost in the 50’s” here in Savannah. The owner of the Charleston Music Hall just does'nt seem very interseted in talking with us. I know that a Calvin Gilmore show ran for a couple of years there in that theatre, and I think that the owner of the building is still in court with them trying to get the money that the show defaulted on. So I understand why they are hesitant to let some other ongoing production come in. The frustrating thing is that the theatre sits empty for almost 11 months out of the year. I am at least glad that Brad does the Christmas show in there in December. I will look into the American Theatre. Mr. Coles, I know that you have been in a lot of theatres, but you are welcome anytime here at the Savannah Theatre, if you ever happen to be in the Savannah Area, I would love to invite you to see our production and tour the theatre. Thanks for your help, you seem to be quite the expert on vintage theatres.

John Coles
John Coles on March 23, 2005 at 6:54 am

Thanks for the feedback on our website. Some days we add a lot. Some days slip by. But, we keep trying. As for Charleston’s venues, there aren’t many left. It seems to me there are only tourists and college students left in downtown Charleston. The city has changed since I moved here twenty-six years ago. The suburbs have exploded. Savannah seems to have maintained a viable urban population. Penninsular Charleston seems to be hotels, restaurants, and trophy homes. I’m not sure there are really any “local” toes left to step on. Power rests with the developers. The North Charleston Performing Arts Center has replaced the old Galliard Auditorium as the premiere venue. The management of the American Theatre might be interested in working with you. I don’t think there is currently any venue in Charleston for a wonderful show like Jukebox Journey. That’s a shame in my opinion. Are you familiar with the Charleston Christmas Show? Have you talked to Brad Moranz?

Patsy on March 22, 2005 at 5:54 pm

Well….I don’t really know what to say my friend so I shall just say thank you and……WOW! We look forward to meeting you and seeing Jukebox Journey at your special Savannah Theatre! WOW!

mattmeece on March 22, 2005 at 4:20 pm

I look forward to meeting you and your husband this weekend in Savannah. I have already put your seats in. I gave you our VIP seats. So you are officially a “Very Important Person” at the Savannah Theatre. Which doesn’t really mean much of anything! But I am glad that you guys are able to make it down.

mattmeece on March 22, 2005 at 4:16 pm

Wow John!
You really do have a lot of information! I love your website. Are there any venues that are open and available in Charleston? Other than the Charleston Music Hall(Who won’t deal with us!). I really feel like an ongoing musical production could work in Charleston and be very neat for the City, if it covered the right kind of material(other than what has already been tried in the past in Charleston) I love the city, and a little bit of culture in the downtown sprinkled in with the National chain department stores might do the city some good. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, because I know how locals feel about outsiders coming in and taking over something. But if they dont want something that actually has some culture that would look for local talent and showcase the city and their people, the alternative is losing the theatres to more department stores! Are there any other Venues left?

teecee on March 6, 2005 at 6:50 am

Thanks for your excellent post. I wish we could clone you and put you in all 50 states! Wow 207 theaters, and we only have 25 posted here. Keep us all up to date on your book release.

Patsy on March 5, 2005 at 5:33 pm

John: Wanted to ask you about your theatre research and if it is limited to theatres in SC only? Also, that I’ll be in Kershaw SC next Friday and saw that you list 2 theatres there.

Patsy on March 5, 2005 at 5:30 pm

John: Also tried sending you an email and I rec’d a failed notification. I used