Recognizing the powerful impact theatrical art has on humanity, Wilkes Playmakers is committed to providing entertainment, promoting cultural awareness, and nurturing inclusion through captivating stage performances, creative educational programs, and meaningful community experiences. Entrusted with caring for one of the area’s oldest buildings, Wilkes Playmakers is honored to offer its home, Benton Hall Community Arts Center, as a venue for professional functions, social gatherings, and community events.
Benton Hall was constructed in 1913 as the North Wilkesboro School. At the time, the local economy was booming, so the city built this grand, architecturally unique school building as an investment in the community’s future. Holding various age groups at different times, the North Wilkesboro School was locally renowned for its academic excellence. It was so desirable, that at one time parents from other districts paid a fee for their children to attend, and the massive building was bursting at its seams. In 1924, an additional building was constructed to hold the additional students, and was later demolished. It stood where Benton Hall Community Arts Center’s parking lot is today. In 1964/1965, an addition added a gym (replacing an older one from the 1930s), a new classroom, a band room, a teachers' lounge, and offices for the North Wilkesboro City Schools superintendent and Board of Education. Over the years, thousands of students attended the school until it closed its doors in 1978.
After the school’s closing, the building was abandoned and left in disrepair. Local businessman Clarence Benton acquired the building hoping to salvage and restore it to its former glory. He named it Benton Hall and sold it to the Health Foundation for $1. The Health Foundation ultimately transferred ownership to Wilkes Playmakers, who promised to maintain the building and fill it once again with life and activity.
The building’s auditorium, which is believed to have been used for plays and programs since the building’s construction over 100 years ago, now houses countless plays, musicals, concerts, and productions every year. Since 2000, Wilkes Playmakers has maintained the massive building. Now, there are people and activities in the building nearly every day, and many of Benton Hall’s beautiful historic rooms are available for business meetings, weddings, celebrations, and other professional and social functions.