Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spirit Square: 'A bold new beginning'

    Entertainer Joel Grey opened Spirit Square's new Performance Place on April 16, 1980. 

Scroll down for photos of the restoration and an editorial.

'View from pulpit of First Baptist Church sanctuary.'
1930s. Courtesy of Warren J. Redd

An editorial by Tom Bradbury, former Observer Associate Editor
April 16, 1980

    Spirit Square is one of the very nicest things Charlotte-Mecklenburg has done for itself in a long time.
    It was the vehicle for preserving the old First Baptist Church, a handsome Romanesque structure that is an important link with the rapidly vanishing past of Charlotte's downtown.
   The $4 million project has involved the community's public and private sectors, its citizens, businesses and government in an impressive example of cooperative endeavor.
   Along with Discovery Place, it will be an anchor and a focal point for the North Tryon Street end of the revitalized downtown. It is a project that will bring people and activity at all hours, which will in turn attract new private investment.
   Perhaps most important, it is the occasion and the stimulus for a breathtaking expansion of artistic and cultural activity. That is visible in the rush of talent across the stage on NCNB Performance Place in the eight-week grand opening season that begins today. It is visible in the flowering of local activity and instruction already under way.
   It is a bold and sparkling venture. It is not yet finished physically or artistically. But today's celebration and the opening of NCNB's Performance Place mark the realization of a major part of the dream that voters endorsed in the bond issue three years ago.

Do you think Tom was right that Spirit Square would be an 'anchor' to enliven North Tryon Street?

'What do you get at a groundbreaking with no ground? For ceremonies marking the beginning of a $2.5 million renovation at Spirit Square, dirt was carried from Discovery Place, across North Tryon Street from the community arts center. The building, built in 1908, was vacated by the old First Baptist Church in 1972 and acquired by Mecklenburg County in 1977. The bond-financed project will include renovation of the building's 650-seat auditorium, rehearsal hall and an adjoining mall.'
December 1978. Phil Drake/Staff

'David Edsel, a carpenter with R.H. Wheatley Co., saws a board which will become part of the staircase descending from the sanctuary balcony at Spirit Square.'
January, 1979. Staff

'Thomas C. Watson (left) and Dan G. Partis of Queen City Automatic Sprinkler Corp. survey the inside of Spirit Square sanctuary.'
Febuary, 1979. Staff

'Jeff Whitten takes a breather from the electrical work he was doing to transform the old First Baptist Church on North Tryon and Seventh Streets into a theater and rehearsal hall for the Spirit Square arts complex.'
August, 1979. Tom Franklin/Staff

'Visitors to Spirit Square still have to wear hard hats while construction workers finish the mortar work on the dome.
November, 1979. Bob Brown/Staff

'This stained glass shown from inside is in the front corner of Spirit Square's Performance Place. The finished hall will have back lighting to make the stained glass visible from the inside.'
November,1979. Bob Brown/Staff

Spirit Square dedication, April, 1980.  
Mark Sluder/Staff

The renovated Spirit Square arts center.

A more recent photo.


Anonymous said...

"Do you think Tom was right that Spirit Square would be an 'anchor' to enliven North Tryon Street?"

Emphatically, yes. As I recall, it was the first public space restored/repurposed in uptown. Everyone I knew was thrilled by what had been accomplished.

Of course, everyone I know loves Charlotte, wants it to grow and thrive and eschews those who don't.

Now let us hear from the usual "GovCo" howlers...

Anonymous said...

Good article. Also just wanted to say I'm glad I can comment on this. Who was the dummy in charge at The Observer who decided to make it mandatory to register for an account to view and comment on articles? You guy's are going to lose out on internet viewership, which through sharing and social networking, could help boost the Observer, but that roadblock to register does nothing.

Michael Kennedy said...

Yes -- it is great space. But can we please get a proofreader for these articles? "Bill". "Saw"

Maria David said...

Michael - tx for the comment. I found one typo but not the other! Blogs are pretty casual and don't go thru copy desk.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best things the Observer has ever done - making this blog possible. Thank you, Maria David!

Maria David said...

Anon 9:22 - you made my day! Let me know if you have any ideas for the blog.- Maria