City Directories and History: 1954 – Belk, Belk’s Department Store (Location of the historic Union Opera House, Merchants and Planters Bank and Graham Cash Co.)
This structure appears to be #2, 4 and 6 (bank and lodging) on the accompanying 1917 Sanborn Insurance Maps of Union, S.C. The numbering system for commercial buildings in Union frequently changed, therefore this was recorded as #125 in 1984, and in 2014 it is #127. Location of the historic Union Opera House.
The Rock Hill Herald reported on Sept. 9, 1899 – “Mr. Rhea Diehl, has gone to Union where he has accepted a position with Harry and Belk Merchants.”
Opera House History:The three-story brick structure was built in 1896 as the Merchants and Planters Bank, but the owner leased the second floor out as an opera house. As best I can determine from contemporary newspaper accounts, this opera house was in operation from at least 1898 until 1913. A late friend of mine took dance lessons there in the late 1910s and early ’20s. The opera house was utilized not only by traveling stock companies but by the local dramatic club and various civic groups who sponsored lectures, plays, musicals, and concerts. The building was demolished in 1952 to make way for the new Belk department store. The photo (rt), shows it shortly before demolition.
Prior to the Union Opera House, another such establishment was in operation on the second floor of Nicholson’s Hall, located on the southeast corner of Main and South Mountain Streets. A furniture store was housed on the first floor of this building, which was built by financier William A. Nicholson, who also built the Nicholson Bank building in Union, an impressive brownstone constructed in 1904. Nicholson’s Hall opened to road shows, etc., in 1878, and it seems that the hall continued to host such offerings until the Union Opera House opened between 1896 & 1898. (Information written and contributed to R&R by Fredrick Tucker – 1.27.17 Sources include: Union Newspapers and The Narrative History of Union County, South Carolina by Allan Charles.)
closed in the 1930’s. It has served as the location of Smith’s Drugs for decades as viewed in the historic image above.
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