Owner of Burned Georgia Theater Vows To Rebuild
By Lindsey Roberts | Online Only | Nov. 10, 2009
In Athens, Ga., what was lost is now waiting to be found. After a fire gutted the Georgia Theatre last June, owner Wilmot Greene is raising money to rehabilitate the Art Deco structure, with the help of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
Country artist Zac Brown performed at a fundraiser at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Oct. 30, along with Kid Rock and other artists. Auctioned guitars from Kenny Chesney, Dave Matthews, and John Mayer also helped the efforts, which in total raised about $85,000.
Greene estimates that the rebuilt theater, with a new rooftop bar and restaurant, will cost more than $3.25 million. Nevertheless, rebuilding the theater is worth it, Greene believes. "Athens is known for music, and the Georgia Theatre is the hub of that music scene," he says.
The fire department has not determined the cause of the blaze, which started in a guest dressing room.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is accepting donations for the theater, from a $50 "Roadie" to a $10,000-and-up "V.I.P." Each sponsorship level comes with perks, such as name recognition on a wall of the new theater, a print of the theater, or a lifetime pass to theater shows. "We had a critical situation," says Mark McDonald, president of the Georgia Trust. "If we didn't help, then it was going to be likely that we were going to lose the building."
The Georgia Theatre—which occupies about a block in historic downtown Athens—was built in the 1890s and has since served as a YMCA, furniture store, and then a theater in the 30s and a music venue in the 70s. The Police, the Dave Matthews Band, and Beck have all played there, among other artists.
"Most people who have gone to the University of Georgia in the last 20 years have really great memories of seeing emerging bands at the Georgia Theatre, and we'd like to continue that," McDonald says.
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