By Brandon Hembree
The Eagle Theatre in Downtown Sugar Hill, which opened in late 2018, is a brand new building. Its beautiful Art Deco style harkens back to a by-gone era reminiscent of the year Sugar Hill was founded in 1939. Many of the Eagle Theatre’s elegant features make it appear older in age. The theatre’s history, however, is limited to the movies and plays, City staff, and members of the Players Guild, Broad Street Concert Band, and other groups that have played in or walked its halls since it first opened. Plays like “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “The Odd Couple” have graced the Eagle Theatre’s stage. The building has a very short history.
The properties around the theatre do have a long history. Old City Hall was built in the 1970s and the current City Hall, next door to the Eagle Theatre, was built on property that was once the location of a leather and boot factory. The Buice School, named after a long-time principal, welcomed children and teachers for many years across the street from the theatre until its closure and recent demolition. The Historic Sugar Hill Cemetery and many other properties and assets have contributed to a history that can still be felt in Downtown Sugar Hill. The Eagle Theatre itself is built on the location of what used to be the Sugar Hill Shoe Shop and later a private residence. It is the history of these properties and the people that roamed life’s corridors of the past that are perhaps contributing to some strange, ghostly phenomenon at the Eagle Theatre.
Since its opening, many individuals have experienced unusual activity in the Eagle Theatre. Players Guild staff and thespians have witnessed sound and lighting issues, which have been noticed by various patrons of plays and movies at the theatre. Computer programming has been scrambled and microphone channels mysteriously switched inside the control room computer closet. Tools and props have disappeared and reappeared days later. Items have been found moved around inside the prop room that is locked when not in use by the Players Guild. City staff members have even reported breezes and the sound of wind inside the theatre when the general public is not present in the venue. The Eagle Theatre has many nooks and crannies, like catwalks, dressing rooms, and spiral staircases. All of these areas are quiet and disorienting in their isolation and can certainly give theatre visitors a feeling of aloneness, but these activities are beyond explanation. Nearly every theatre has a ghost story, and these tales are often associated with the venue and property itself or previously used clothing or furniture linked to various productions. Downtown Atlanta’s Fox Theatre is just one of many examples. The Eagle Theatre apparently is no exception.
Ghost stories in Downtown Sugar Hill are not unique to the Eagle Theatre. Tales have long been told about the Buice School. It was one of the oldest buildings on West Broad Street and private charter schools that utilized the property in recent years often talked about strange experiences. Both private schools coincidentally were focused on visual and performing arts. There are even stories of unusual activity at the newly opened City Hall. Even though the current City Hall was opened in 2013, the history of its property is linked to a leather and boot factory. Georgia Boot Company was the center of activity and commerce on West Broad Street for many years in Downtown Sugar Hill. The activity at these two past locations could have links to the activity at the Eagle Theatre.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts or simply just don’t like ghost stories because you get really scared, it is hard to argue with the fact that past people and historical events leave impressions on locations. Sugar Hill’s past has contributed greatly towards its present and future. The Eagle Theatre is a reflection of and homage to that past, and the amazingly vibrant and creative community that walks its aisles and sits in its seats will no doubt create stories, even ghost stories, to tell future generations.