Milton's historic Imogene Theatre put up for sale, just under $1 million
The historic Imogene Theatre in downtown Milton has been put up for sale.
The 8,000-square-foot building, which was constructed in 1912, was listed for sale on Wednesday by Voyage Real Estate. The asking price for the theater is $995,000.
The Santa Rosa Historical Society has owned the building since the mid-1980s. Board member and spokeswoman Cassandra Sharp told the News Journal on Thursday that the historical society had "fulfilled its mission" with the building and wanted to sell it to a buyer who could take the time to turn it into a more vibrant performing arts center.
Sharp said the historical society isn't in the business of operating theaters and wants to sell it to someone who is.
“We feel that we’ve done our part, and we would like to be able to continue to see her (the theater) continue as a venue for performing arts downtown,” Sharp said. “She has the capability of being a full-service restaurant and bar to help support the performing arts theater, and we would like to be able to relocate our museum of local history and in the process work toward preserving other buildings that are in need of attention.”
The Imogene Theatre has been a staple in downtown Milton for more than a century. It was once the cultural hub of the county, bringing in acts like Hank Williams, Hank Locklin and Minnie Pearl.
After a fire nearly destroyed the building in 2009, it enjoyed a momentary renaissance from 2016-2018 and brought in acts like Confederate Railroad and LeeAnn Rimes. The historical society opted not to renew the contract of the theater's directors last year and it has sat largely dormant since then.
Main Street Milton briefly tried to take over the theater's operations last summer, but due to ongoing disputes with the city, the takeover did not happen.
Downtown improvement advocates still see the Imogene Theatre as having the potential to revive downtown Milton and bring in musical acts, plays, private events and other cultural performances, bolstering the city's mission to make its downtown area more of a hub of activity.
“It’s time for someone else, another group, to take her to the next level,” Sharp said. “She is very important to economic development and festivities for the downtown area, and she needs a lot of programming and constant activities. She has been a large draw not just to Milton, but to Santa Rosa County. Our organization is really not equipped to keep her going as a performing arts venue, and that needs to happen.”
Sharp said the society will include provisions in the deed that the theater continue to be maintained as a historic building and continue to serve as a performing arts center.
Former Milton Mayor Wesley Meiss said on Facebook that the theater "owes its existence to the SRHS" and to the people who volunteered their time to keep it up.
"She was initially saved from a 1985 wrecking ball that intended on creating a parking lot for the Courthouse. Not to mention the restorations after Dennis, Ivan, and the Fire of 2009," Meiss wrote. "Although I have no dog in this fight anymore, I believe that releasing the Imogene into the private sector might be what’s best for her! Downtown Milton has come a long way in the past decade and the right investors could make the Imogene into a major player."
In addition to the theater upstairs, the Imogene also has a downstairs area that could be converted into a bar and restaurant or other retail space.
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.