Turnage Theater reopens in downtown Washington

Turnage Theater reopens in downtown Washington

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WASHINGTON, N.C. - The Turnage Theater in downtown Washington finally opened its doors Thursday night.

About one hundred people showed up to the grand opening and an award-winning poet entertained the crowd.

The council plans to launch many more local art events and has already scheduled a few artists to show their work through February.


In just a few months, a downtown Washington entertainment icon will be back in business.

The Turnage Theater shut its doors after a foreclosure in 2011. It was bad timing, considering it just had a multi-million dollar renovation using public and private money.

Wells Fargo bought it at auction for half-a-million dollars last year, and tried selling it for $750,000. After a private buyer backed out, the Beaufort County Arts Council stepped in.

The council landed the theater for a fraction of the price at $250,000, according to Joey Toler, the council’s executive director.

Toler says taxpayers did not foot the bill for the 1930s venue. Instead, the council took out loans and got private donations to pay for it.

Toler says the theater will be the council's new home base, complete with an art gallery, gift shop and entertainment space.

"[We’re] making it a theater that is somewhere everybody would want to come to, no matter what their background is, no matter what their race, no matter what their economic background,” he says. “We really want this to be a community arts center. It has a lot of potential and a lot of nostalgic value."

Surrounding business owners and city leaders hope will transform the Turnage into an arts and economic powerhouse.

"Different things will be going on, which is going to draw people to the downtown and our downtown really needs that,” says Dan Sleeper, a volunteer at the nearby River Walk Gallery.

"Part of what brings people to downtown Washington are the arts and we've built a strong community of the arts here and the Turnage is the icing on the cake," adds Beth Byrd, the director of the city’s Washington Harbor District Alliance.

Toler says the arts council will move in next month, and entertainment will launch in the spring –ranging from community theater performances to well-known acts.

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