“Ben Hur” played silently and “Beau Geste” followed.
The year was 1927, and the Carolinian Theater was brand new.
Its seats, sound and lighting were of the highest caliber, making the facility the envy of other theaters in the area.
Over the years, the Carolinian remained a prime location for movies and theatrical productions in Orangeburg — and continues that tradition today as Stevenson Auditorium.
The history of Stevenson Auditorium began more than 80 years ago when the Young Men’s Business League of Orangeburg decided the city needed a new municipal building and auditorium.
A referendum was held on Aug. 17, 1926, for the sale of $175,000 in municipal bonds to fund the project. It passed, and the money was approved on May 4, 1927.
After seven months, the new municipal building, with the Carolinian Theater, was completed.
Country comedienne Minnie Pearl, cowboy Red Barry and the Dean Hudson Orchestra all performed in the theater.
The name was later changed from the Carolinian to Stevenson Auditorium in honor of the former city administrator, Robert Stevenson.
Stevenson Auditorium has traditionally been an event venue for the Orangeburg community. The auditorium since been used for dance recital, plays and concerts.
In the late 1990s, an effort was made to restore the auditorium. The only sprucing up the building had prior to the renovation was in 1972 when it was repainted and rewired and air conditioning units were installed and the seats were painted and recovered.
The Stevenson Renovation Committee was formed and worked to raise about $300,000 from grants and contributions to restore the building, including the dressing rooms and restrooms.
Local businesses and industries as well as the City of Orangeburg, the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities, the Junior Service League of Orangeburg and the Horne Foundation contributed to the renovation efforts.