Visitors to the Winyah Auditorium rave about the amazing acoustics of this historic building for live performances by singers, actors and musicians. Since reopening in 2011, the venue has offered a welcoming space for chamber music ensembles, rock concerts, gospel shows, performances of Shakespeare’s plays, and a Jazz festival, as well as pageants, recitals and town meetings.
Construction of the Winyah Auditorium took place in 1907, on what had been the city commons on Highmarket Street between Cleland and Dozier streets. The first event held in the auditorium was a Georgetown town meeting in March 1908. Initially the building served as a graded elementary school, but with the addition of a new wing in 1924, the Winyah served as the historically white junior and senior high school for the town during segregation. As the town grew in size, space became an issue within the school. A fire in 1981 resulted in significant smoke damage to the auditorium and newer wing. The last class of Winyah Gators graduated from Winyah High School in 1985, when the new Georgetown High School opened its doors.
In 1988, a group of dedicated citizens, led by former school secretary Nell Cribb, saved the building from demolition by petitioning to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a number of years, the City of Georgetown used the space for offices, and Coastal Carolina University brought instruction back into the classrooms. After a few years, use of the building waned, and it was abandoned and boarded up. It remained unoccupied for nearly 25 years!
Two and a half decades later, a group of devoted citizens, along with the City and County of Georgetown, came together to raise enough money to restore the neglected building and the auditorium. Renovations included removing seats from first floor of the auditorium, sanding and restoring the original floors, re-glazing the windows, painting the ceiling and hanging period lighting. Several bas-relief panels original to the building were returned to their initial positions at the front and the rear of the auditorium. Surrounding the auditorium, the Winyah School building also houses The Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences, Coastal Optical, and Coastal Eye Group.
Programs and events at the Winyah are supported by grants from the City and County of Georgetown, by individual and family memberships, by sponsorships from generous individual donors, and by local businesses and organizations. Reserve tickets online through the Winyah Auditorium website.