THALIAN HALL TIMELINE By Pat Bradford
1803 The trustees of the Wilmington Academy, under a
bequest by Col. James Innes, began taking bids for the construc-tion
of a new building to house a theater.
1855 Construction began on a second, grander theater
building, designed by renowned architect John Montague Trim-ble,
who built 40 theaters before he went blind. Thalian Hall is the
only Trimble theater still standing.
1858 The first performance. The original drop curtain was
painted by Russell Smith. (It has been restored and is considered
the oldest of its kind in the United States.)
1860-1936 The Hall was leased by private entrepre-neurs.
1861-1865 The American Civil War.
1862 A yellow fever epidemic hit Wilmington. It arrived in
August aboard the Kate, a blockade runner from Nassau. 650 died
from the disease.
1867-1871 John T. Ford, who owned Ford’s Theatre in
Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln was assassi-nated,
leased the Hall, calling it The Wilmington Opera House.
1875 Buffalo Bill Cody came to Wilmington to perform
1880s Thalian installed a skating rink.
1886 An electric light was installed at the entrance.
1897 The first movies were shown, using a Projectoscope
invented by Thomas Edison.
1898 Electricity installed throughout the building.
1909 A circus play included three ponies, a trained donkey
and a horse.
1909 Renovations cut back
the side balconies and the ornate
proscenium. Electric stage lights
1928 Ziegfield Follies, one
of the last of the traveling musical
revues, came to town.
1938 The north wall collapsed
during renovation to install an
elevator under the Works Progress
Administration (WPA), funded by a
1963 The Thalian Hall
Commission was formed and
incorporated, and money was raised
to upgrade the theater and make
1966 An 18-year-old Tony
Rivenbark auditions for a produc-tion
30 september 2022
of “Good News,” a collabora-tion
between Wilmington College
and Thalian Association.
1970 The Hall was listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
1973 Following a small fire on the first floor that destroyed
the decor, the theater was returned to its turn-of-the century
1975 The Hall reopened after fire damage.
1985 A $1.7 million bond for renovation and expansion was
1985 The name was changed to Thalian Hall for the