City Officials Unveil First Historic Marker

City Unveils First Historic Marker
Posted on 01/26/2018
City Officials Unveil First Historic Marker
Mayor Dean Dickey and City of Columbia officials dedicated the first-ever City historical marker January 26th to commemorate the former site of the Bethel House Hotel and Princess Theatre in downtown Columbia. The Columbia City Council approved a City of Columbia Historical Marker Program in the 2017 Strategic Plan. The marker is the first in a series. City historic markers will identify key historic sites with local and regional significance.
Ashley Brown joined City officials and others who attended the ceremony. Brown's account of the theater and hotel demonstrated the local and regional importance of the downtown venues, stating that "we did not have TVs growing up. We would go to the theater each Saturday and watch a show for 12 cents." Brown noted the theater's opulence and ornate feel when entering the theater, describing the "oval shape which provided everyone a good seat and balcony seating for the wealthier folks." Brown spent much time at the Bethel House Hotel as his father was a barber who operated a barber shop in the basement level where his older brother shined shoes. "The hotel was the place for visitors and local attorneys to have coffee and dinner on the first level," according to Brown. He continued that the hotel served as a gathering place in downtown where one could see local notable persons visiting the hotel regularly.

The recently designed City of Columbia historical marker was installed at the former sites of the eighteenth century hotel and theater with the Bethel House Hotel featured on one side and the Princess Theatre on the opposite side. In 1949, the structures burned in a fire. First Tennessee Bank's Main Columbia Branch now sits where the hotel and theater were previously located at 200 West 7th Street in heart of downtown Columbia. 

Mayor Dickey remarked that "our new city historical marker program will recognize important, remarkable places. The Bethel Hotel and Princess Theatre will live on in the memories of our citizens and will be known to future city residents due to the city's efforts at marking these vital historic sites." 

The second marker in the series is planned for the Columbia Train Depot on South Garden Street in the Columbia Arts District. The city's historic train depot was built in 1905 and serves as a cultural anchor in the arts district.

Pictured above left to right: Mayor Dean Dickey, City Manager Tony Massey, Councilman Mike Greene, Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski, Vice Mayor Christa Martin, Councilman Steve Boshers and Ashley Brown.