305 Main Street,
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H.P. Hawkins had made his fortune with partner O.B. Crittenden in their Hawkins, Crittenden & Co. cotton business. Hawkins hired architect J.H. Johnson and builder J.F. Barnes to build the Grand Opera House whose cornerstone was dedicated on November of 1899. The Grand Opera House launched with “The Children of the Ghetto” in the Fall of 1900 and continued with live fare in its formative years.
In 1909, the Simmons Brothers (Seymour, Ben F., Henry and Jake) used the summer months to show motion pictures with the Fall and Spring used for road shows. Seymour and Ben apparently pleased locals with by creating live sound effects to accompany the films. The biggest hit was in 1915 with “Birth of a Nation” with large orchestra. The venue was renamed the Grand Theatre.
Saenger Amusement Company took on the theatre in 1928 for $61,000. They ran the theatre as a full-time silent film house for a short period declining to equip the theatre for sound and closing that same year. The Knights of Columbus were allowed to operate in the space by Saenger until 1938 when Saenger had the Grand Theatre demolished. Banners and posters from the 1900-1920 period remained in the building along with its original seating at the point of demolition. It was replaced by the city’s main post office.
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