Sylvan Theater

Also known as: Jackson County Public Library, Sylva Insurance Agency
470-474 West Main Street, Sylva, NC


Street View 


This two-story brick commercial building is executed in running bond with a denticulated cornice, a header course separating the first and second stories, and a soldier course above three storefront bays. The replacement wood-framed west and central storefronts encompass single-leaf doors and plateglass windows, while the matching east bay contains only one large plate-glass window. Three double-hung, one-over-one, wood-sash windows pierce the façade’s second story. The east elevation’s second story, which is blind, is exposed as the contiguous building, which is not included in the historic district due to extensive alterations, is only one-story tall. Metal coping caps the flat parapet. On the Mill Street elevation, laid in five-to-one common bond, two tall steel-framed windows with operable six-pane lower sections illuminate the second floor and a sliding wood basement door painted with a river scene hangs on a steel track. Asheville and Waynesville movie theatre proprietor Theodore Stevenson engaged Asheville architect Douglas Ellington to design the one-story Sylvan Theatre erected by J. S. Higdon. The five-hundredseat venue began operating on July 1, 1927, under Edwin B. Drake’s management. Drake purchased the business in February 1928 and Lyric Theatre owner Harry E. Buchanan assumed oversight of the Sylvan Theatre in early 1929. The venture appears to have been short-lived, however, as the July 1933 Sanborn map indicates that the theatre was no longer functioning. Although the façade’s second-story windows indicate that the building interior has an upper floor, only what was originally a small projection room occupies the building’s south end. The rest of the space had a full-height ceiling designed to accommodate the movie screen. Owners remodeled the façade to create two storefronts in the mid-twentieth century, shortly before the building’s use as the Jackson County Public Library from October 1957 until October 1970. Sylva merchant Sol Schulman’s son David Schulman purchased the building in 1971 and added a metal-screen façade prior to opening David’s Stores, a clothing shop, in the east storefront in September of that year. After moving the business west on Main Street in November 1975, he leased the storefront as a professional office. Donald M. Ramsey, Sylva’s first full-time optometrist, practiced from the building’s west storefront from the 1950s through 1990. Sylva Insurance Agency, established in 1925, has occupied the east storefront since 1989. David Schulman returned the façade to a historically appropriate appearance around 2009. - NCHPO

Update Log 

  • March 30, 2015: Added by Michael Miller

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