Temple Theatre was built in 1925 by Mr. Robert Ingram, Sr. (owner of Sanford Coca-Cola Bottling), at a time when Sanford had a population of only 3,500. Located half a block from the railroad station, Temple was a frequent stop for the shows and the stars of vaudeville. For several decades it served as Lee County's principal seat of entertainment. After the death of vaudeville, Temple showed its versatility by becoming a touring house for the road shows of the 1930's (including a bit of burlesque), and then a movie theater. The Sanford Little Theatre and The Footlight Players used the Temple for its community productions during the 1960's, but in 1965 Temple Theatre closed its doors for fifteen years. The rebirth of the Temple Theatre began in 1981 when Mr. Robert Ingram, Jr., the son of the theatre's original owner, donated the building to the citizens of Lee County. Led by Mr. Sam Bass, the building was designated a National Historic Site in 1983 and given a large challenge grant by the NC Legislature. Lee County citizens and businesses matched the grant, along with a generous grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Through the efforts of many, the gutted and vandalized shell of Temple Theatre was refurbished with both the comfort of the theatre patron and the performer in mind. It reopened in 1984.
The lobby's richly painted walls and wooden trim flank the original multi-colored floor of hexagonal tiles. Above hangs a crystal chandelier accented in gold, while twin staircases sweep up on either side of the lobby leading to the balcony where the restored tin ceiling can be best appreciated. Backstage, the actors enjoy comfortable dressing rooms, a kitchen, and a lounge area. There is a full counter-weight fly system backstage, an advanced communication network, and a computer controlled lighting and sound system, making the theatre practical and workable. The theatre itself is intimate, with 333 seats. There is even an old-fashioned orchestra pit, which is utilized for musicians, but can be covered to create a larger stage. Because it was designed for vaudeville, the acoustics are superb, and audience members have a good view of the stage from every seat.