Things are livening up inside the old Williamson High School.
The Rose G. Smith Theater, named for a beloved instructor of the arts in the Williamson community, is undergoing renovations to restore the theater to its original condition.
"Rose G. Smith was an English, drama and speech teacher from 1929 to 1961 when she retired from declining health," said Tonya Webb, vice president of the City of Williamson Convention and Visitors Bureau and theater volunteer. "Her passion was for the performing arts. It was her true love."
The theater, which opened in the 1920s, was a popular spot in the community for a myriad of live performances. According to Webb, the Williamson High School Class of 1950 requested the theater's name dedication and a plaque was erected shortly thereafter in Smith's honor.
Over time, Williamson High School's enrollment steadily declined, and in 2011, the school was closed and consolidated. Students from Williamson, Matewan, Gilbert and Burch high schools were sent to Mingo Central High School along the King Coal Highway.
In October 2018, the building was purchased by three investors, Mayor Charlie Hatfield, Sam Kapourales and Joe Lycans, who wished to rekindle its artistic presence in the community. The building had been vacant for several years, and the ceiling, stage, fabrics and electrical systems were in dire need of repair, Webb said.
"When the owners bought the building, the theater was the first thing they wanted renovated," Webb said. "They're still working on some things, but we had the first open house in February of this year."
Soon, the Rose G. Smith Theater will be hosting live acts, events and performances at least once per month starting with a murder mystery dinner on Sept. 7.
Webb said she's certain the community was grateful to see the theater's comeback.
"It provides the community with something extracurricular to do, and every small town needs a theater," Webb said. "It brings the arts to children and allows them to get involved with drama and speech. We want the community to understand it's family oriented, and they can feel comfortable and have a good time."