Athens, Ga., landmark destroyed in blaze

An Athens landmark was heavily damaged during a fire today.

The Georgia Theater, a music institution for 30 years, was gutted in the blaze that started about 7 a.m. The owner plans to rebuild, according to media reports.

“If ever there was a landmark central to Athens’ identity, it would have to be the Georgia theatre,” one poster to OnlineAthens.com said. “I grew up watching movies there and progressed to REM and Wynton Marsalis. There should be no question about rebuilding with support from all quarters of Athens, starting with the music and arts communities.”

The theater was built in the late 19th century as a YMCA – the first in the south. In the 1930s, the building was turned into a movie theater, and it began its run as a music venue in 1978. The Police, R.E.M. and the B-52s are among the acts that have performed at the Georgia Theater.

“It sounds like a cliché, but it’s like losing a family member,” former owner Bill “Duck” Anderson told the AJC. “When you spend 50 or 60 hours a week, six days a week for 15 years somewhere, that’s what it feels like.”

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Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.