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The history of the Charleston Municipal Auditorium in West Virginia

By Isaac Taylor,


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The history of the Charleston Municipal Auditorium in West Virginia’s capital city started with debate from citizens.

According to the auditorium’s Statement of Significance to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, the debate on whether or not to have the auditorium in downtown Charleston began in the 1930s.

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It says people for the auditorium said it was needed because it would attract performers and bring culture to the capital city. On the other side, people said it would be an “unnecessary and frivolous waste of public funds.”

In 1936, the city applied for a $412,000 grant-in-aid through the Public Works Administration (PWA) to begin construction on the auditorium. In the same year, the application was denied; the city reapplied the following year. Voters approved a $250,000 municipal bond for the construction of the auditorium.

After the passage of a $2 billion federal relief appropriations bill, the city of Charleston received $212,000 in PWA funding, which the statement says was 45% of the construction funds.

The area was chosen between Truslow and Clendenin Streets on Virginia Street, which is now situated close to the Charleston Town Center and the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse. At that time, the area had an auto sales and service center, a used car lot and a cinder block office building and service station.


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500 people gathered to see the official groundbreaking on Jan. 20, 1938. Because of PWA, the work had to be done within 208 days. It says it did not meet the 208-day time frame.

5,000 people were at the auditorium on Nov. 5, 1939, when the city of Charleston held a four-hour dedication that included a concert, speeches and a tour of the facility. Two days later, the auditorium held its inaugural performance by Zino Francescatti.

The Charleston Municipal Auditorium has seen its fair share of controversy since its opening. The letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior says, during segregation, Black people and White people were not allowed to be at the same event. That was changed in the 1950s when everyone was allowed to go to events as one group. Law enforcement in the area would use a room in the basement below the stage. It says that law enforcement was upset when it was decided to remove it. The last parts of the shooting range were removed in the 1990s.

During the 1950s and 60s, the auditorium required serious maintenance. There was debate on whether or not to have the auditorium continue since planning for the Civic Center – now known as the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center – began. In 1959, facility manager Bill Bolden said the city would spend $100,000 on repairs to the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. Repairs began in 1966 and ended in 1967.

After the $100,000 renovations, the auditorium made the most amount of money than at any other time since the Civic Center opened its doors in 1959.

$14,500 was budgeted for improvements by the Charleston City Council; there were discussions on whether or not to give another $10,000 for future maintenance.

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As of Feb. 6, 2023, the Charleston Municipal Auditorium is still having performances.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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