The Cramer Center opened in October 1998 as a private, multi-use facility serving our Manassas Community. Individuals, Profit and Non-profit Organizations, Churches, Exhibitors, and Others may rent the Center, insofar as uses are in keeping with the positive development of Old Town Manassas. Since the Center was conceived as a developing space, we rely on volunteers taking an active role in improving the facility for the good of all.
History of 9008 Center Street
This property was the home of the Manassas Baptist Church from 1896 (original Parsonage) to 1980, when they relocated to their new Church. It was then converted to a broadcasting studio for WTKK (TV), National Capitol Christian Broadcasting. In 1994, Value Vision International (known primarily for their "Home Shopping Network") purchased the facility and developed it into a complete video production unit--editing and dubbing rooms were added and transmission systems were expanded. Several years later, VVI altered its marketing objectives and sold Channel 66 to 'Bud' Paxson to be part of his "PAX-NET" family entertainment network.
Recognizing the potential for adapting this historic building into a home for Cramer's Music Company and a much needed Community Theater, Steve Cramer purchased the property in June 1998.
The Church Street side of the building was converted into a temporary storefront for Cramer's Music Company, and over the next few weeks miles of television cables were removed in preparation for changing the broadcast studio into a theater. The exterior presented some unique challenges--several very large (16-20') satellite dishes, and various antenna systems of all shapes and sizes remained on the property when it was sold. Careful planning of resources was required, since the first show was scheduled to open within five months. But with the assistance of many volunteers, family, and friends, cables were pulled, bathrooms were built, and lighting systems installed. Truckloads of concrete poured into the new steps, sidewalks, and ADA ramps, and dumpsters were emptied almost every week. Meanwhile, employees packed boxes with music to prepare for the move from our former Sudley Road address.
The Cramer Center opened as planned to an eager and enthusiastic audience. Over the years we have hosted recitals, award banquets, fundraisers, auditions, talent shows, and theatrical performances by different community groups, as well as our two "Companies in Residence"--Vpstart Crow, a professional Shakespeare-based group, and "TFC" (Theatre for the Community), a semi-professional company. Cramer's Music Company and The Taboret Art Supplies opened as scheduled on the Church Street side of the building, and Mr. Cramer immediately began designing and building a new addition to allow both stores to expand. Once completed, all operations were merged to become a single "Cramer Center", encompassing both retail stores and all theatre operations as a single entity.
Closing the Cramer Center
Performing and Visual Arts organizations continued to find growing support from the community and a partnership was formed among Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and George Mason University to develop a new Arts Center on the Manassas campus. As it neared completion, Vpstart Crow Productions, Inc., who were the primary 'Resident Theatre Company' and other groups who had performed at the Cramer Center theatre over the years, began making plans to move all of their operations to the new Gregory Family Theater at the Hylton Arts Center. Mr. Cramer considered expanding his own theatre productions at the Cramer Center, but when considering the limited resources of actors and staff, as well as just how much audience support could be garnered to fund Center building operations and overhead, it was decided to permanently close the theatre.
The Next Great Adventure
With the decision to close the theatre came another decision to sell the entire Cramer Center property, and it was sold in September 2011. The new owners plan to remodel the facility for use as a Hindu Temple, and that seems an appropriate bookmark to again place the property in the hands of those who would use it as a place of worship.
As for me, it is time for something entirely new and different and exciting. The Cramer Center was a lifelong dream becoming reality, and there are so many wonderful memories to take away.
My most heartfelt Thank You for those who were part of it.
Stephen J. Cramer
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