The Grand Theatre

Grand Theatre Moving Pictures

Charles W. Drace, the photographer responsible for much of our early photographic record of Greer, built what was almost certainly the first theatre in Greer, and possibly the first in the upstate. Though records are sketchy, it appears that he first started showing films in the large multi-store building that stood where CBL is now, on the corner of Trade and Randall. The 1911 Sanborn map shows the drug company in the storefront at the corner (at the time Dendy-Hindman, previously Highland Drug) and the movie theatre beside it. We believe this to have been the Dixie Theatre; we know the Dixie was still operating in 1913 (Greenville Daily News, April 25, 1913, Page 6).

There is a photo of a two-story wood-lap building with a sign reading "Grand Theatre." The photo has a banner advertising Chaplin, and there are men standing in WW1 military uniforms. This is a bit of a mystery building, not quite matching any of our current information. It is not the Trade Street building, which we know was brick. It might be a first building Drace built at 121 East Poinsett (today’s address; back then it was Hill Street), which would become the home of the Grand Theatre for many decades. However, the 1920 map shows that street-front of the building was brick, while the theatre section itself was wood. (Though total conjecture, it's very possible that the original structure is shown in the photo but burned; fires were extremely common in Greer, and we know that the wood theatre burned in 1928, and Ponder's Ice Cream beside it burned at least twice in 1936 and 1943.)

The Grand Theatre as we know it had a brick street-front with two doors; to the right was the entrance to "Mister Charlie's" store, which sold musical instruments and Victrolas. The other, just on the left side, was the entrance to the theater. This was a hallway down the side of the building; the theater itself was behind the store. There was a second floor, which was Drace's photo studio. the theater seats faced a 3-story stage; and, by October 1922, a large extension annex had been added behind that; it was a sign printing company, owned and operated by Drace's son.

On April 30, 1928, the theatre burned down, along with the sign shop. Drace quickly rebuit both. By the 1930 map they have returned, this time entirely in brick. A door had been cut in the left side of the theater hall entrance and another little store added in the space that is now Abbott's Custard; that store was a marble company.

By 1951, the Grand remained on the map, still with the original layout of a store to the right and the hallway entrance to the left. The little side store was gone and replaced with the current Abbott's building. The sign shop is now simply listed as storage.

The Grand after Charlie

Charles Drace died in 1928. He had two sons, Kramer and William, who worked in the theatre. We have a photograph of an advertising sign Kramer made around 1933; but it was Bill who really took over and ran the theater for the next several decades.

Now: an alley

Where the great Grand Theater stood is now (Dec. 2021) an alleyway between Abbott's Custard and Barista Alley.

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The Grand Theatre


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The history of Charles Drace’s Grand Theatre

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