Celebrating the Rich Heritage
of the Louisa Arts Center
Our beloved historic building has served our community for over 100 years.

1907 - 1924
Laying the Foundation of
Historical Legacy

In Louisa County, Virginia, this notable 1 ½ story granite ashlar stone building, designed by renowned Richmond architect Charles M. Robinson to serve as a high school.

Before his time in Richmond, Robinson worked in Altoona and Pittsburgh PA, but is best known as a prolific designer of educational buildings in Virginia - public schools in Richmond and throughout the Commonwealth, as well as buildings for James Madison University, College of William and Mary, Radford University, Virginia State University, and the University of Richmond. Many of his works are listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.

On Fredericksburg Avenue, in the town of Louisa Court House as it was referred to at that time, the building with a recessed central entrance under a large semicircular granite arch and with large dormers on its steep roof began serving grades one through eleven of the Louisa Court House High School, which was the first in the Commonwealth to make use of state matching funds under the 1906 Mann High School Act to “establish and maintain a system of public high schools.” dedicated to free public education.

The building architecturally expresses progressive era principles of the modern school. Large windows light eight classrooms, four on each floor. A central stair is well lit from the door and window in the central bays of the first and second floors. Well placed on its lot, the school was surrounded by land for recreation and organized games. With its auditorium annex, the school could be a center for community activities and programs.

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  • Within a decade, a second story was added in addition to the auditorium.

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1925 - 1987
Serving the Community with Education:
Enduring, Evolving, Growing

Early the prior year, a fire gutted the building, leaving only the granite walls. It was rebuilt in its two-story configuration - and within two years served grades as early as the beginning of elementary school. By 1928 the eight-room school served 260 pupils, 170 of whom were in the elementary grades. Due to overcrowding, the first two grades were housed in a private dwelling, no longer standing, adjacent to the school property

  • A charming account of the experiences of one first grader on entering the building for school and through the school years by Mary “E” Wright Mills Richardson is available for further reading.

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    The building was overcrowded again by 1955 with the closing of Bell’s Crossroads School. Wilmer Shank, a local builder, constructed an annex to the east side of the building in 1956-1957 to ease overcrowding.

  • Within 15 years, in 1940, the elementary school grades had grown and taken over -- the high school grades which the building initially served were consolidated with two other high schools and moved to Mineral. The building became the home of the Louisa Elementary School, where it flourished for nearly 50 years.

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  • In 1986, the deteriorating condition of the building and an increasing student enrollment necessitated the construction of two new county elementary schools and the refurbishment of an older intermediate school for use as an elementary school.

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  • In 1987, with that construction complete, the former Louisa High School was closed and was subsequently purchased by W. A. C. Pettit, III, who resided at the Sargeant-Pettit house next to the school property. The school remained abandoned until 2002

2002 - 2006
The Journey of a New Vision for the
Town of Louisa & Community Arts Center

The buildings and 12.4 acres surrounding it, including the Sargeant/Pettit House, was purchased by the Town of Louisa in late 2002. In 2004 the Louisa Downtown Development Corporation - a 501(c) (3) non-profit was organized to develop, fund and manage the Louisa Arts Center, governed by a Board of Directors who represents the communities, business, government, the arts and education in Louisa County. The LDDC rolled up its sleeves to plan and fundraise in collaboration with the Town, architects and local citizens. The board combined concepts and visions to ensure the best use of the facility - including town meetings for two years with planners and theatrical consultants to input.

2007 - 2012
The Louisa Arts Center Is Born

In 2007, Louisa Arts Center is born and begins to serve the mission to enrich, enhance & inspire with the Purcell Gallery’s opening exhibit Title. A $20,000 grant was discussed with the Dave Matthews Band BAMA Works Foundation in Charlottesville to add to their $10,000 donation of furnishing and equipment for the project

By 2008 the restoration was completed!!! The Building now housed Town of Louisa offices, the Town Council chambers and Town Hall, Art classrooms, Art Gallery, Catering Kitchen and now featuring the Cooke-Haley Theatre as the newest addition. The 200-seat theatre opened with the ability to host programs ranging from concerts and recitals to dance, drama, comedy, and films. August of that year featured a grand opening of the Cooke-Haley Theater.

By 2008 the restoration was completed!!! The Building now housed Town of Louisa offices, the Town Council chambers and Town Hall, Art classrooms, Art Gallery, Catering Kitchen and now featuring the Cooke-Haley Theatre as the newest addition. The 200-seat theatre opened with the ability to host programs ranging from concerts and recitals to dance, drama, comedy, and films. August of that year featured a grand opening of the Cooke-Haley Theater.

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2013 - Present
Louisa Arts Center Explodes Into A Golden Age of Growth

January of 2013 the Louisa Arts Center took a bold new path by engaging Michael Bollinger as Executive Artistic Director. Coming to Louisa with a track record of opening and growing theatres and cultural arts centers, the move paid off. New programs were implemented in the first year: Expanded Performing Arts Series, Live Theatre, Concerts In the Park, Music & Wine At Sundown, Films and more. A computerized box office system was implemented enabling patrons to purchase tickets 24/7 and for the first time – reserved seating. An effort was put into “getting the word out” and engaging the community. The result, performing arts series attendance increased 400% in the 2013-14 season, while visits to the Center and participation increased 650% including non-ticketed and community events. Growth continued.

By 2014 Youth Arts Camps began to explode – with the number of camp programs multiplying from 1 to 4 to provide for all of the interest! In 2015 interest in visual arts classes for youth and adults grew – as patrons of all ages sought skills and experience in creating their own work of art. The Purcell Art Gallery expanded its scope and patronage immensely. Our art gallery openings for each new exhibit is bursting at the palette with artists and attendance Visits have expanded to several hundred over the course of the exhibit.

The work of the Louisa Arts Center is causing ripples through the region. Since 2015, the Louisa Arts Center was named Partner of the Year by the Louisa County Historical Society, most improved Venue by the Lake Anna Business Partnership, as well as People’s Choice Award for the Central Virginian as Best Place to Go for Entertainment. In addition to other regional recognition, in 2016 we were named Partner of the Year for the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce.

  • Within a year of Bollinger’s work, business and ticket sales at the Louisa Arts Center increase, making it necessary to grow the team to include our Box Office Manager and Executive Assistant Sheryl Eubank.

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    By 2015 Louisa Arts Center theater performances, gallery exhibits, young and art programs expand to incorporate the hosting of monthly Chamber events, popular art classes and speakers, and music in temperate weather outside!

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  • In January 2013, Executive Artistic Director Michael Bollinger was hired to usher in the vision for the Louisa Arts Center growth. He began directing and producing Live Theatre in addition to expanding the performing arts offerings.

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    Before the end of 2015, our Community Relations and Development Director Christine Corrieri is hired to facilitate sponsorships and grants. And the year is squarely rounded out with the first Silver Tie Gala which is a spectacular celebration and fundraiser.

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Continue to visit for updates on the great work
of the Louisa Arts Center and come visit us soon!