Morton Theatre History
Monroe Bowers "Pink" Morton began construction on the Morton Building in 1909. The Morton Building was completed on May 18, 1910, and it was described in 1914 by the Athens Daily Herald as the "largest building of its kind to be owned exclusively by a colored man in the world." The Morton Building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of Athens' black doctors, dentists, and pharmacists practiced within the Morton Building. Among these were Dr. Ida Mae Johnson Hiram, the first black woman to be licensed to practice in the state of Georgia, and Dr. William H. Harris, one of the founders of the Georgia State Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists, and Druggists. The first black-owned drugstore in the city owned by Dr. E.D. Harris, for whom the pharmacy area of the building is named. Other businesses included various insurance companies, pool halls, restaurants, barber and beauty shops, a bakery, and even a few mortuaries.
The most prominent enterprise that has existed within the Morton Building was the Morton Theatre, which opened on the evening of May 18, 1910, with a piano concert by Alice Carter Simmons of Oberlin, Ohio Conservatory, attended by both black and white patrons. This historic event was celebrated during the Centennial Anniversary of the Morton Theatre with a classical piano concert on May 18, 2010 by Dr. Rosalyn Floyd, featuring many of the same pieces Alice Carter Simmons played in the first act to ever grace the Morton Stage.
Well documented performances from the Morton Theatre's historic days include the New York Follies performance in 1914, and the "annual" appearance of The Black Patti Musical Comedy Company on November 2, 1914. Also appearing in November 1914 were Shark's Smart Set Company and Tolliver's Smart Set Company who graced the Morton's stage "with a thirty all-star cast--carrying the best lines of singers, dancers, and novelty acts of any company on the road."
To learn more about Pink Morton, the early commercial enterprises and the hot Corner, please visit our Morton Theatre History page and visit "Georgia Stories" a Georgia Public Television series.