The silent film “Ben Hur” played. It was followed by “Beau Geste.”
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.
The venue continues that tradition today as Stevenson Auditorium.
The idea started with the Young Men’s Business League of Orangeburg. Members 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, along with the Carolinian Theater, was completed.
Country comedienne Minnie Pearl, cowboy Red Barry and the Dean Hudson Orchestra all performed in the theater.
The theater’s 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 is used for dance recitals, plays and concerts.
The building was renovated in 1972. At that time, it was repainted and rewired, air conditioning units were installed and the seats were painted and recovered.
In the late 1990s, the Stevenson Renovation Committee was formed. It raised 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.
The 613-seat auditorium features a proscenium stage with a three-tiered balcony. The auditorium has restrooms on the floor level as well as in the balcony hall.
It is located at 979 Middleton Street.