Restoring Toccoa’s Historic Ritz Theatre

By Julie Paysen

What is now known as Toccoa’s Historic Ritz Theatre at the Schaefer Center was originally The Ritz Theatre, constructed in 1939 as a single screen movie theater seating 500 patrons. It was operated by Fred T. McLendon, who built a chain of 36 theaters across the southeast. There are only two Georgia theaters that still remain, they are Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre and Toccoa’s Ritz Theatre.

The Currahee Arts Council acquired the building in 1982 from owner, Mrs. Orville Schaefer. During this period the theater was known as the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts and hosted musicals and theatrical productions. The Currahee Arts Council managed and maintained the Schaefer Center until 2011.

In late 2012, the future of this Toccoa landmark was assured when the Fox Theatre Institute selected the Schaefer Center for an Economic, Preservation, and Design Plan grant. ​By March of 2014, the City of Toccoa assumed ownership of the facility and the extensive restoration began. The Schaefer Center has undergone major renovations over the past few years. The lobby has been completely redone, the stage enlarged, construction of the new orchestra pit, and of course all new paint, carpet, heating/air as well as completely remodeled dressing rooms have all been part of the facelift. The exterior facade has been restored and the original stucco repaired. Historic paint samples were taken and the facade has been returned to the original colors of 1939.

On January 28, 2016, The Fox Theatre Institute gave the City of Toccoa another grant to recreate the historic Ritz Theatre marquee on the building’s façade and the 3,000lb. neon-lit marquee was recently hoisted into place, and will serve as a landmark for the downtown area for generations to come.

The City of Toccoa was just awarded a grant for a professional sound system to be added in this next year. Over time, the Ritz has hosted many forms of entertainment, including The Famous Flames with James Brown, Milkshake Mayfield, Francine Reed, comedian James Gregory, The Drifters, The Young Irelanders and The Annie Moses Band.​​

Northeast Georgia Community Concerts is often responsible for filling the stage with top notch shows and talent. Their purpose is to bring to our corner of Northeast Georgia the finest in entertainment and the Arts. We are so fortunate to have performances right here in Toccoa that you would normally only find in much larger communities. See what’s coming to the Ritz at www.RitzTheatreToccoa.com.

Experience the Glitz… Experience the Glamour… Experience the Ritz.

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