Sunday, February 8, 2009


Ten months after a January fire, its second and most devastating fire, causing and estimated 50,000 1939 dollars worth of damage, the Princess Theatre* reopened the third time to grand local fanfare and Hollywood well wishes.

The first movie to be shown on the new theater’s screen, after reopening was “Fifth Avenue Girl”, starring Ginger Rogers.

Ms. Rogers, Jack Benny, Clark Gable, and others prominent in the “theater and movie business” were among dignitaries that sent their congratulations.

Ticket prices, 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults, remained the same as before the fire. The first night audience was also treated to a short dedication service that included introductions of city officials, Crescent Amusement Company officials, and visiting Crescent theater managers.

For one night, it was as though Hollywood had come to Harriman, complete with flood- and spot-lights, and a real “Newsreel” photographer!

The Princess must have been something to see on that Thursday night of November 16.

A newspaper supplement to The Harriman Record with a banner headline of “The Dawn of a New Day for Theatre Patrons”, described the “Grand Premiere Opening”, heralded the new theater as the “South’s Finest Temple of Amusement”!

It further described the “ultra-modern” theater’s marquee as having “brilliant soffit lighting…black carrara structural glass, cromium (sic) trimming and red and blue marlite.

Underfoot is the shining terrazzo floor which extends into the foyer which is lined with marlite and the walls and ceilings are done in light shades of varying colors…enhanced by the soft light of…modern fixtures.”

Continuing inside the reporter describes the steps leading to the mezzanine and balcony as being covered in “soft, deep padded carpet in variegated colors...”

Highly stressed was the rebuilder’s intention of making the Princess “fireproof” for the safety of its patrons.

The United States Gypsum Company, then in Atlanta and Birmingham, supplied Sabinite Acoustical Plaster that was used extensively in the reconstruction.

It said to not only condition and enhance the acoustics of the theater, it also offered the additional value of being fire-proof.

Since this was after the second fire at the theater, the first one was in 1932; additional effort was put into advertising the building as “fire-proof”.

The builder even covered the roof in gypsum, hidden under 3 layers of felt and tar!

Cheaper “cello-tex” plaster could have been used in the walls and ceiling for around $350, however, the architects, and Crescent Amusement management, believed the $5500 for 3 coats of the Sabinite plaster’s acoustical and fire-proof properties was worth the extra cost.

After the 56 tons of steel was erected, workers began laying the 17” thick brick and cinder block walls, and pouring the first red “color pigment” concrete ever poured in Harriman.
No longer would the floors have to be repainted twice each year from shoe leather wear!
Soon, the Princess began resembling a movie “temple” once again.

Soon it was time to put in place the giant 500-pound speaker that could broadcast the slightest whisper through the perforated silver screen, onto the audience seated in “floating comfort” interlocking seats, that utilized no bolts or screws to tear ladies dresses, and with welded joints that eliminated all squeaks!

The original seats themselves must have been a beautiful thing to behold.

The backs are covered with light orange leather and the bottoms are of read maroon leather with green velour skirts.

The arms are of hard maple in natural finish…”

Just try and imagine the pride theater manager L. W. Bevel must have felt as his first night’s patrons stepped through the doors of the new Princess!

Just try and imagine what it would be like to see it just like that…just once more in our life time!

What pride might we feel, with grandchildren in hand, as they step through the doors of the Princess Theatre and see it for the first time, as it was meant to be seen, “A Temple of the Arts”!

The correct form is to refer to the building as “theater” and the art form as “theatre”.
You probably have noted that Crescent Amusement Company used the “theatre” form of the word in naming the Princess.

Not to be correct, but to follow tradition, this blog will henceforth refer to our beloved theater as the Princess Theatre.

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