Palmetto Theater, Hampton, SC
The Palmetto Theater, built in 1946 by C. L. Freeman, is a stunning example of an intact Art Deco-influenced, Art Moderne theater built for a rural southern town during the mid-twentieth century. Its surviving neon-lit marquee and facade are almost entirely original, and the interior retains several other key features of its original Art Deco influences. Beyond its impressive architectural components, though, the Palmetto Theater was also the center of a pivotal Blue Law controversy in 1950, when local Baptist clergy pushed for the arrest of the Palmetto’s two owners, Dr. James A. Hayne and T. G. “Mutt” Stanley, for permitting screenings on Sundays. Following their arrest, the community engaged in a long-running public debate over the appropriateness of these laws. Ultimately, the Palmetto resumed its Sunday screenings without further consequence, thus confirming the Palmetto’s successful challenge of the law as a watershed moment in the evolution of local social dynamics during the mid-twentieth century.
The Palmetto Theater was listed in the National Register by the National Park Service on October 9, 2012. The full text of the nomination and additional photos are available at the SCDAH.
Palmetto Theater, 2012