A note from the researcher, Kimesia Chiles Isbell, written in the March 29, 1983, as the preface to her History of Antoinette Hall.
The opera house still stands waiting for her hall to ring again with joyous entertainment. The opera house doors have been closed for all these years and during this time, lack of attention and maintenance have taken their toll. Many of the exterior architectural features have been removed or marred during this period of abandonment. The interior has also suffered greatly. Little remains of its once beautifully frescoed ceiling. All of the furniture and fixtures have been removed, leaving only the stage with its beautifully detailed wings and graceful curving balcony. The State of Tennessee, Governor Lamar Alexander and the Giles County Historical Society have now taken a combined interest in preserving the architectural landmarks in Pulaski.
Old theaters are of particular interest nationwide.
They are proving to be of great interest because almost all are architecturally and historically significant and are readily adaptable for the contemporary performing arts usage. Most of the historic theaters were built to be the focal point of a community’s cultural life, and their architectural significance stems from this fact. These buildings served as community gathering places not only for entertainment but for social events, educational lectures, political conventions and rallies, commencements and town meetings as well.
There has been a growing need for theaters since 1965 with the increased interest and rapid growth in the performing arts. This has, in turn, created a demand for adequate performing spaces and facilities. In the renovating of old theaters for contemporary use, changes must be made to accommodate the demands of modern theater technology, to satisfy contemporary building codes and to provide the creature comforts required.
Restored and functioning historic theaters have played an important role in the revitalization of economically depressed areas. In both urban and non-urban areas, existing businesses benefit and compatible businesses such as hotels, restaurants, cinemas, bookstores, boutiques and art galleries are spawned. New business creates new jobs and new tax revenues. The increased activity also attracts new residents to the community. This one theater can trigger a chain reaction that could lead to the revitalization of our entire area.
Pulaski is not an economically depressed area as defined by today’s standards. Our town does have tremendous historic importance. Our opera house is possibly the only remaining opera house from that era in Tennessee. According to National Register of Historic Places documents, it is perhaps the oldest remaining opera house in Tennessee and among the oldest in the country. Giles Countians have talked and worked for the restoration of this opera house in years past but have been unable to concentrate the efforts needed to accomplish such a project. Homecoming Tennessee ’86 is the idea of Governor Alexander for the purpose of promoting the restoration and renovation of historic places in Tennessee. We now have the chance to get not only Giles County involved in the project, but the State as well.
I am working on the opera house as my major at the O’More School of Design. The opera house is a restoration project consisting of the renovation of the opera house and adjoining office area. I have proposed several uses for the opera house, many of which are those for which it was originally used; but I have also proposed additional renovation for use as a movie theater. The old office areas will be utilized as dressing areas, rehearsal space, costume storage and a concession and eating area with an adjoining gift shop. To meet the standards for Handicapped and Fire Codes, the addition of an elevator and bathrooms to the existing area will be necessary.
The opera house brought about an unprecedented era in the lives of Giles Countians during its 50 years of existence. Pulaski, in the late 1980s, now is the chance to restore the opera house and gain the benefits as our predecessors did. The opera house during its active years promoted cultural growth as Pulaski prospered. Through my studies and with local and state involvement, we too can prosper and reap the cultural benefits the restoration of the opera house will promote in Pulaski.