Fitzgerald's crown jewel: The Grand - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fitzgerald's crown jewel: The Grand

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Mgr. Clark Jones (Source: WALB) Mgr. Clark Jones (Source: WALB)
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A rare Barton Organ (Source: WALB) A rare Barton Organ (Source: WALB)
FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) -

The city of Fitzgerald is filled with history. In fact, our broadcast location is a place some people refer to as the crown jewel of Fitzgerald. The Grand theater is used for plays, movies, conferences and even wedding receptions.

Right now it's in the process of being renovated. 

 "I remember as a child coming here to the grand," said General Mgr. Clark Jones.

For many who grew up in Ben Hill or Irwin County this Grand Theater brings great memories.

"It truly was The Grand. It was the meeting place for a lot of people," Jones said.

Decorations inside show just how long the Grand theater has been a central point in Fitzgerald. It was originally built as the Grand Opera House in the early 1900s, but it burned down in 1934.

"Of course this was during the depression era, and people would go to the movies a lot during that time, so they were demanding that their theater be built back," Jones said.

That's when the Martin theater group took over the building and reconstructed it in art-deco style... that you can see still in the theater today.

It's that style, current manager of the Grand Center Complex Clark Jones, is trying to bring back. Jones performed on the stage in the 80's with the "Community Players."

"It's been a part of my life all of my life, and at this point, at 63, to be able to come into it for what I consider to be a long-awaited renovation to the art-deco style is truly an honor for me," Jones said.

In the 2017 SPLOST budget, the city approved $200,000 to go towards renovating the theater. The floors have been re-done and the sign is at the shop getting a revamp. But Jones says he has greater plans to make this a regional theater for people all over Southwest Georgia to enjoy.

The theater also boasts a very unique instrument: one of the two Barton Organs in the state of Georgia. The city got the organ in 2012. Then it was reconstructed by a company in Atlanta, but it still has the original pipes.

And we are told the sound is incredible.

"I remember how it once was here many, many years ago and I look at what it's going to become, and it is very exhilarating and I am so pleased of knowing I'm going to be in that future," Jones said.

Jones expects to have all the renovations complete in the next few years.  So we'll have to come back then and take a look at the transformation for ourselves.

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