500 Bland Street
Bluefield, WV, 24701
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The Summit Players Theatre is part of the Bluefield Area Arts Center. The city-owned Arts Center is an adaptive reuse of Bluefield’s Old Municipal Building. That 1924, Classical Revival structure originally housed the city hall, library, court, police station, jail, and municipal auditorium – with a notable feature of the multipurpose building being its lobby, a three-story atrium lit by skylights and surrounded by open galleries. After a new, larger government facility was built in the mid-1970s, the city planned to demolish the Old Municipal Building. However, a preservation effort by local residents succeeded, and the building took on new life as an arts-oriented facility operated by a nonprofit.
Summit Players, an organization that had been putting on productions in the area since 1966 (making it one of the state’s longest-running community theater groups), soon leased the former municipal auditorium. Returning it to its original use was a rehabilitation challenge; not only was the space in poor physical condition, but it had most recently been used as a police garage. (Part of the police station’s booking facility is still visible in the present theater’s light booth and costume storage room.) Nonetheless, through fundraising and effort, Summit Players moved into the structure in 1980 and has been hosting plays and workshops regularly there in the years since. The theater space also holds community events and serves as a rental venue. (Listed NRHP 1979)