George Hiley Slappey (1871-1934), a pharmacist who later became a successful peach farmer purchased the building in November 1915. It was a single-story building that originally housed a dry goods store, R.S. Braswell & Sons.
In 1916, the building was remodeled and a second floor auditorium was added. Originally called “Slappey’s Opera House,” Mr. Slappey renamed the theater the "Austin Theatre" for his friend, Samuel (Bully) Austin. The theater opened in January 1917, with a presentation of the play "Peg O' My Heart," performed by a traveling theater company.
In addition to staging plays and showing movies, Mr. Slappey would lend the Austin Theatre for community events, such as a Fiddler's Convention in 1919, which raised money for charity.
In 1925 and for several years thereafter, the building was used as Peach County's first courthouse, with Judge Henry Matthews presiding. In 1934, the theater was leased to the Martin-Thompson theater chain from Hawkinsville, Georgia. Upon his death, Mr. Slappey's estate sold the building to the Martin-Thompson Company who added a third floor projection booth and renamed it the Peach Theater. From that time until the late 1940s, the building experienced its peak use as Fort Valley's premier movie theater.
The Peach Theater went out of business in the late 1960s and the building was sold to Marion Allen, a former Fort Valley mayor. In 1969, he remodeled the first floor to house a discount department store. The last store housed in the building closed in the mid-1990s, and the building was vacant for the next 10 years. In 1999, Mr. Allen donated the building to the Downtown Development Authority. The building has been rehabilitated by Fort Valley Downtown Authority for use as a cultural and commercial venue. The Theater has been turned over to the Fort Valley Arts’ Alliance to maintain and manage the theater. The theater is available for weddings, receptions, family reunions, theater productions & musicals, art shows, etc. with accommodations for up to 200.
*For rental information call the Austin @: 825-4828