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The Ghost That Haunts the Dock Street Theatre
The Origins Of the Theatre
The Dock Street Theatre was first built on 135 Church Street in 1736. It was the first building built in the United States for the performing arts.
Four years later, in 1740, a fire destroyed the theatre and the theatre was moved elsewhere. But the second theatre was demolished in 1780.
In 1809, the Planters' Hotel was built on 135 Church Street. It was an extravagant hotel that catered to the wealthiest men of Charleston's upscale society. They flocked to Planters' Hotel for an evening of drinking, gambling and prostitutes.
When the Planters' Hotel closed, the Dock Street Theatre moved back into its home on 135 Church Street, into the remains of the hotel, in the 1930s. And that's where the theatre is located today.
The Dock Street Theatre is an old building and just like any old building it's enriched with history. And where there's history, there's sure to be a ghost story or two.
Ghosts always pop up in old buildings, never new. That should tell you something but many people don't seem to pick it up so I won't bother.
The Story Of Nettie Dickerson
In the 1840s, supposedly a twenty-five year old woman, by the name of Nettie Dickerson arrived in Charleston, SC. She was drawn to the sophisticated part of the city and she was determined to find true love and happiness.
But the prime age, back then, for marriage, for females, was seventeen, and at the age of twenty-five she was a spinster. Although Nettie was a pretty and smart girl and many men were willing to take her as a mistress, however, none wanted to marry her.
So heart broken and broke, Nettie took a job as a clerk at St. Philip's Church were she was good friends with the priest. She attended church at St. Philip's regularly but she still wasn't accepted into Charleston's upscale society. They looked down on her.
During thunderstorms, Nettie would climb to the top of the church's bell tower to watch the thunder clouds roll in from the sea. She felt comforted on her perch because the people below appeared equal to her.
She saw everyone and everything from her perch on the bell tower. Including the aristocratic men, who never missed a Sunday at St. Philip's with their perfectly proper and upscale wives, who enjoyed an evening of drinking and prostitutes at Planters' Hotel and she begin to resent the fact that she would never be as upscale as them.
So Nettie quit her job, ignored the priest's warnings, dressed in a beautiful red evening gown and entered the Planters' Hotel to begin her new life as a prostitute.
Despite her choice of a new profession, Nettie never missed a Sunday at St. Philip's and when the wives of her clients would sneer and make rude remarks, she would walk right up to them and make witty remarks such as commenting on their choice of a husband.
This was not good for business, and Nettie soon begin to lose clients. So she took comfort on the second floor balcony of the hotel during thunderstorms.
One night, while she was on the balcony, the priest was trying to get her to come down and back to the church.
As Nettie said "You can't help me!" to the priest, a bolt of lightening hit the railing and electrocuted her. Her sad life came to a tragic and horrific ending.
The New Dock Street Theatre
As I previously stated, in the 1930s, the Dock Street Theatre moved back into its home and took over the old building of the Planters' Hotel. But according to stage performer at the theatre, Nettie Dickerson is still there. She can be seen wondering the halls of the second floor, and on stormy nights you might run into her on the balcony.