The Colonial Theatre has a very special place in the history of our community and in the lives of many of our residents. It has weathered many storms and economic crises, as well as years of neglect at various times throughout its history.
The Colonial is one of the few remaining vaudeville theatres of its era in Virginia and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Colonial Theatre was originally constructed in 1925 to house live entertainment, vaudeville, and musical productions. In later years, the Colonial was a theatre for silent movies and major modern motion pictures. In addition to the lobby and theatre auditorium, the Colonial also included the post office at one time on the ground floor, street front as well as office spaces on the second floor, and a social hall on the third floor. The Atlantic and Danville Railroad made possible the vast number of live performances held at the colonial, which included such well-known entertainers as Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, Ronald Coleman, Vilma Banky, Louis Homer, Tex Ritter, Texas Rhythm Rangers, Gene Autry and Champ, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Minnie Pearl, and many more.
The Colonial Theatre closed its doors in the 1970's to motion picture shows. A group of concerned citizens from the South Hill Civic Center, Inc. raised monies to purchase the old theatre. In the year 2000, the Montgomery family sold the Colonial to the South Hill Civic Center. The following year, 2001, the South Hill Civic Center donated the Colonial to the South Hill Community Development Association, Inc. to establish and maintain a performing arts and cultural center to serve the populace of the town of South Hill, Virginia and the surrounding counties of southern Virginia. In August 2001, Mayor Earl Horne and the CDA worked to obtain the means to recognize and rehabilitate the Colonial, in an effort to bring it back to its original splendor. Working with grants, local industry, local businesses, interested parties, and organizations, the vision has been brought to life. The Colonial Center is on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Virginia Landmarks Register, and the National Park Services National Register of Historic Places.
The Colonial Center is three stories tall. The first floor with its beautiful two lobbies also contains a Welcome Center. The second floor serves as an art gallery and offices, and the third floor has a fantastic view of downtown South Hill from the large Ball Room. The auditorium includes the balcony seats, totaling four hundred. The stage, with its three-story fly house will welcome a variety of entertainment.
In January 2011, the project was completed. On January 22, 2011 the CDA Board and South Hill Council named the 400-seat auditorium, "The Earl O. Horne Auditorium," as a tribute to Mayor Horne for his leadership and tireless work toward the restoration of the Colonial Center.
The Colonial Theatre today stands as an important linkage to our past and a vital part of our future.