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Barter Theatre

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1832; 1905 remodeled, Charles G. Mitchell. 127 W. Main St.
  • (Virginia Department of Historic Resources)

A repertory theater group was organized here in the 1930s by Robert Porterfield for out-of-work actors. From bartering admission tickets for anything from huckleberries to lamb chops, it has grown into the State Theatre of Virginia. Drawing thousands of visitors annually to Abingdon, the Barter Theatre is a major component in the economic—as well as the cultural and aesthetic—vitality of the town. The theater building began as Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church. After the congregation moved to a different site (WS8), the building housed the Sons of Temperance and was used for lectures, grange meetings, and drama productions. In 1905, the building accommodated the opera house on the first floor, the town hall on the second, the fire department in the rear, and the jail in the basement. Mitchell's remodeling for these new uses included a two-bay extension to the front of the building and the gable-end pedimented facade. His mildly Romanesque facade includes end buttresses with decorated finials, rock-faced stone lintels over the windows, corbeling edging the eaves, a bull's-eye window at the top of the gable, and a round-arched recessed entrance. Mitchell remodeled the Martha Washington Inn (WS9) the following year.

Across the road at 106 W. Main is Barter Stage II, Barter's secondary stage. It occupies a former Methodist church (c. 1831) that moved to a new building. Although enlarged and modified, the Greek Revival gable-end building retains its facade with a lunette in the pediment and a central entrance.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee


What's Nearby


Anne Carter Lee, "Barter Theatre", [Abingdon, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Virginia vol 2

Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest, Anne Carter Lee and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 469-470.

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