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About the Winyah Auditorium

The beautiful Winyah Auditorium is a 501(c)3 nonprofit volunteer-led organization, housed in the Historic Winyah School circa 1908. Restored to it’s original design in 2012, the Auditorium is a prime example of Classical Revival architecture, and both the Auditorium and the Winyah School Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Auditorium is a wonderful venue for concerts, hosting many genre’s of musical performance. It features 400 seats, 2 green rooms, full sound and lighting, and multiple restrooms for both backstage and patrions. 

The Auditorium is available for community events and programs, with our low-cost rental program.

The History

Winyah Auditorium is a historic and pivotal building located in Georgetown, South Carolina. Built in 1908 as a part of the new Winyah Elementary School, the auditorium’s seats were full of elementary and high school students until 1984. According to the SC Department of Archives and History, this Classic Revival building may be the only surviving early 20th century brick school in Georgetown County.

Education for children in the Georgetown area began through the Winyah Indigo Society. Formed in 1740 and charted by King George III in 1757, this club was a forum for the Indigo and rice planters of Georgetown County. Dues and contributions helped establish an “Independent Charity School for the Poor”, one of the first free schools in the United States. By 1908, the Indigo Society’s school had consolidated with the public graded school and the new facility was completed on the former Georgetown Commons, a previously undeveloped open area for citizens. The new Winyah Graded School was the first public graded school in Georgetown.

Prominent architects built the school at a cost of $30,000 in the Classical Revival style with two-story columns, 12 classrooms, 8 cloakrooms, a brick and concrete raised foundation, a full basement and beautiful auditorium. The Columbia architectual firm Wilson, Sompayrac, and Urquhart was considered the most prominent firm in South Carolina and in the Southeast in the early 20th century. Charles Coker Wilson was the lead architect and had completed the SC State House construction, designed buildings on the University of SC campus, and was the founding president of the SC Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In addition, the contractor, John Jefferson Cain, had just completed the Palmetto Building on Columbia’s main street. Winyah Graded School possessed “every modern convenience” in 1908 and its’ beautiful auditorium featured bas relief art by Percy Bryant Baker (1881-1970), depicting important scenes from American history. The panels have been restored and replaced in the renovated auditorium.

First through 10th grades shared space and an 11th grade was added in 1912, forcing the high school students to meet in a vacant hospital next door. In 1924, an equal size addition was built behind the school. The auditorium, serving as the link between the two buildings, was enlarged with more seating and a larger stage area. The municipal school at Highmarket and Cleland streets was a source of pride, easily seen from the newly created US Highway 17 which threaded down Highmarket street by 1935 and carried tourists between New York and Miami. In 1938, International Paper was under construction, increasing the County’s population and spurring school growth. A seperate High School was built immediately west of the graded school and was named Winyah High, serving mostly white students, while Howard High School continued to serve predominantly black students. Preparing for desegregation and a school merger, Winyah High School burned to the ground in November 1981 due to arson. Winyah Graded School and its 1908 Winyah Auditorium survived!

In 1986, a group of concerned citizens formed the Georgetown Auditorium Preservation Society to avoid demolition, consider restoration and decide its future use. in 1988, the Winyah School and Auditorium was named to the National Register of Historical Places and substantial local support and fundraising resulted in in full restoration in 2012 and the building’s return to classrooms and an auditorium which serves as a performance venue. Winyah Auditorium is historic, useful and important to the community.