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Auditorium History

Few auditoriums in the world can match that acoustic perfection. In Georgia, nearby Clayton State University's Spivey Hall was well earned in its much-publicized accolades for superior acoustics, and artists look forward to performing at such a superior venue where the sounds of their voices and instruments are crystal clear and undistorted. 

Nowhere nearly as well-publicized, Newnan's Wadsworth Auditorium embodies that same acoustic excellence, and just as at Spivey Hall in Morrow, artists and audiences have been amazed at the sound quality excellence in the auditorium, note members of Newnan's Cultural Arts Commission, who are preparing the March concert with world-known pianist and host Charles Wadsworth, after whom the hall is named.

It happens by design - and it happens by luck. Acoustical engineering is every bit as much an art it is a science and there are many examples of multi-million dollar auditoriums who aimed for acoustic excellence and missed the mark badly. There are many examples in the U.S. and in Georgia of halls that require elaborate sound systems and sound baffles because the designers didn't get it right.

Years ago, Atlanta's CNN Building played host to an elaborate, indoor amusement park (The World of Sid & Marty Kroft) and it turned out to be a cacophony of sounds, notes John White of the arts commission. People who paid to attend and hear shows couldn't hear and neighbors in other parts of the building complained loudly about the sounds "pollution."

Despite that some of the world's most reputable acoustical engineering firms bought in to analyze the problems, they never could get the sound right.

Fortunately, that's not the case with the Wadsworth Auditorium.

Audience members seated in the back rows hear stage performers every bit as well as those sitting upfront. The excellent sound quality is just one of the auditorium's outstanding features. 

The story behind Newnan's now-restored, historic Charles Wadsworth Auditorium actually began in 1938. During that year, under Newnan's Works Project Administration program in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt years, a beautiful, new municipal building was erected at 25 Jefferson Street on the land where Bird Betty's 1883 home had earlier stood. To meet the needs of a growing community, an architect R. Kennon Perry has designed a multipurpose building in the Art Deco Style - a totally daring style for a small, Southern town.

Not only would the new municipal building house a splendid new auditorium, but over the years it would also house the City Clerk's Office, the Newnan Water and Light Commission, the Police Department, the City Jail, the Selective Service Board, and the Chamber of Commerce. However, its shining jewel was Newnan's beautiful, new Municipal Auditorium.

Over the next 60-plus years, the Municipal Auditorium would become the place of special memories for local audiences. On its stage, hometown folks appeared in plays, graduations, recitals, concerts, Junior League Follies, special ceremonies, and much more.

Many remember performances by Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey's big bands and lectures by guest speakers such as Atlanta Journal-Constitution head Ralph McGill.

Charles Wadsworth may be retired, but his legacy will live on.

In recognition of Wadsworth's contributions and nation-wide preeminence as a gifted and talented piano artist, the city's auditorium was christened "The Charles Wadsworth Auditorium" in 1998.

In the years since, thanks to the continued support of Charles Wadsworth, concert patrons, the community-at-large, and the city of Newnan, the Auditorium Restoration Project has resulted in a totally restored, refurbished, beautiful auditorium interior and seating as well as an updated stage rigging system, new stage lighting, new curtains, modernized dressing rooms, and more.

The restoration project was completed in 2008 and now stands as a testimonial of Newnan's heritage in the 1939 Art Deco Municipal Auditorium that has been preserved for future generations.

Credits for the restoration project go to many, notes the city's Cultural Arts Commission. Most notable "curtain calls" deservedly go to Shirley Church and associates, Elizabeth Beers and Jo Ann Ray of the restoration project committee for their untiring efforts. Val Cranford, Ellen Ehrenhard, Carol Harless, Steve Hill, Don Nixon, Martha Ann Parks, Georgia Shapiro, and Bill Stephenson have also been dedicated supporters.

Dr. M.H. "Chip" Cole, Sample Brown, and Jim Rogers were also dedicated, contributors. Supporters Herb Bridges and the Newnan Playmakers, who entertained at the auditorium for years, deserve a bouquet. Newnan Mayor Keith Brady and Newnan's City Council also deserve major credit for their ongoing support of the restoration project. Additionally, accolades go to all those, both companies and individuals, who have continued to support each Wadsworth and Friends Concert.

-Authored by John White