Temple Theatre was built in 1925 by Mr. Robert Ingram, Sr. (owner of the Sanford Coca Cola Bottling) at a time when Sanford had a population of only 3,500. Located half a block from the railroad station, the theatre was a frequent stop for the shows and the stars of Vaudeville.
For several decades it served as Lee County’s principal seat of entertainment. After the death of Vaudeville, Temple showed its versatility by becoming a touring house for the road shows of the 1930’s (including a bit of burlesque and a visit from the MGM lion), and a movie theater among other things. The Sanford Little Theatre used the Temple for community productions during the 1960’s, but in 1965 Temple Theatre closed its doors for fifteen years.
The rebirth of Temple Theatre began in 1981 when a group of progressive minded citizens approached Mr. Robert Ingram, Jr., the son of the theatre’s original owner, and told him of their vision for the theatre to once again become a jewel for downtown Sanford and Central Carolina. The building was designated a National Historic Site in 1983 and given a grant by the NC Legislature.
Working to receive full funding of the NC Legislature grant, Lee County citizens and businesses matched the grant and also received a generous grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and its doors opened again in 1984. Through the efforts of many, the gutted and vandalized shell of Temple Theatre was refurbished with both the comfort of the theatre patron and performer in mind. Now, over 30 years later, the Temple Theatre is Central Carolina’s Performing Arts Center and provides professional, high-quality productions year-round and a myriad of special events.