Built in 1910 by Monroe Bowers ("Pink") Morton, the Morton Theatre is one of the first, and the oldest surviving vaudeville theatres in the United States, uniquely built, owned, and operated by an African-American. In its heyday the Morton hosted early acts such Butterbeans and Susie, Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, Cab Calloway, and Bessie Smith. The theatre also experienced the dawn of the silver screen as a movie house. The Morton Building housed not only the theatre, but also many of Athens’ black doctors, dentists and pharmacists and other professionals. The fully restored Morton Theatre is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and was adapted as a performing arts space through the 1987 citizen-approved SPLOST (Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax) funding in 1993.
The rehabilitated Morton Theatre, which seats 500, is a unit of the Arts and Nature Division of Athens-Clarke County's Leisure Services Department, and is supported in part by the Morton Theatre Corporation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The theatre operates as a rental facility hosting live theatre, public ceremonies, music concerts, church services, weddings, dance concerts, film screenings, receptions, seminars, awards shows, pageants, community events, and more.