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Brenau Universitys Pearce Auditorium is home to legends, myths and great performances
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Peace Auditorium at Brenau University has had a only a few changes in its more than hundred-year history. The stage was made bigger and the balcony was made smaller during a renovation in 1984. - photo by Tom Reed

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Debbie Thompson, director of Greek Life and Campus Traditions at Brenau, talks about Agnes, the ghost said to haunt Pearce Auditorium.

There are many beautiful buildings on the Brenau University campus, but one stands above all the rest - Pearce Auditorium.

The building named for H.J. Pearce, who was Brenau's president in 1983, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1887 and since then there has not been a major renovation.

The original arches are now columns and the original brick exterior is now painted pale pink.

"At one time Dr. Crudup went around and took down all the arches and put up columns on all the buildings to make everything look the same," said Debbie Thompson, director of Greek Life and Campus Traditions at Brenau. "That was kind of the architecture at the time."

Thompson said she loved the original arches. But the pink facade - which was originally brick - happened on accident.

"At one time it was the red brick, and the ivy just took over," Thompson said. "Apparently when they started pulling it down it had eaten into the brick. So they puttied it up and realized they were going to have to paint. They painted it white and it bled through and made pink.

"It wasn't intended (to be pink), but the next time they painted they used the pink."

Pearce was built in the Second Empire style, according to a booklet put together by the Gainesville-Hall Trust Historic Preservation. The 710-seat auditorium is reserved nearly all year, according to Thompson, for various performing arts events.

"The community has always been a big part of Pearce," said Thompson, who has worked at the university for 18 years. "No doubt about that. Before movie theaters that was the entertainment."

The theater also used to have 1,200 seats, but they were reduced during the renovation in 1984.

"They made the balcony smaller and the stage bigger," she said. "Before the chimes were put in, the balcony used to be all the way around."

Also on the Brenau campus, the newer John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts was built with the same design inside but is about 400 seats smaller.

Darrell Morris, director of multimedia and theater services, loves Pearce but said there are some difficulties with the old building.

"My favorite part is dealing with the age of the facility and all the things that go along with that," he said. "It's really difficult to do a lot of modern technology in a 100-year-old space."

Morris added that he deals with old plaster, hidden wires and "100 years of different people making different fixes."

Over the years there have been famous acts that performed at the auditorium, including Ruth St. Dennis, Ted Shawn with the Denishawn Dancers, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Madame Julia Claussen, a soprano with the New York Metropolitan Opera, according to information from the Brenau archives.

But one of the most famous people at the auditorium is Agnes, Brenau's resident ghost.

"Agnes lives in here and many of our theater directors have closed down everything for the night and come back in the morning and the lights are all on," said Thompson, who conducts the university's ghost tour for students and alumni. "A lot of people have experienced her, I never have.

"But the story is she fell in love with one of her professors and he got married ... she was so distraught that she hung herself."

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