PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: July 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011


If you've walked by Channel 15 on Roane Street lately, you've probably noticed the large check in the window.  A $2500 donation was recently received from Knox Heritage.  This money is officially designated as a "Save Our Signs Grant" and was given toward the construction of a new Princess Theatre marquee that will give a modern touch to the original marquee design.  Placement of the updated marquee is expected very soon!

Rest assured folks, there are lots of people on our side.  Like us, they want to see the Princess born again with a new purpose in life - not just to entertain us once again, but to educate and motivate our children!

You would also hear sounds of progress as you pass on up the street and pass the Princess.  There is a lot of work going on inside the old Margrave Drug and Tappan buildings.

Inside the "Margrave" building the elevator supports have been installed and are awaiting the installation of the elevator that will allow all patrons, regardless of their mobility, access to the balcony.  Two wheelchair ramps, on either side of the balcony, will give these audience members a grand view of the stage.

On the "Margrave" side of the wall between the "Tappan" building is a distinctive outline on the brick between steel supports.  

On the opposite side of the wall I found two workers laboring in their attempt to cut through the wall.  

This is where the new concession area will serve the expanded lobby.  Customers will place their orders on the "Margrave" side, while Princess workers will serve them from the "Tappan" side.  

To get a better perspective of the planned arrangement look at the new floor plan drawing again by CLICKING HERE.
They told me it was hard work, and were having some issues with the cut through the old fireproof wall, but they weren't giving up!
In the auditorium, the scaffolding is still up, but you can see and hear work going on up there too.  It shouldn't be long before all the framework comes down and the serious finishing detail work will begin.

The dust from the construction is being swept and washed away back in the prop and dressing room areas, and it won't be long before the lights, vanities, and chairs are placed.
And, as you know, when you drive by you can see that things change daily.  The glass and doors are in the store fronts that were just roughed in supports just a week ago.

Things are progressing, not as fast as we would like, but we do want it done right.  We will soon be proud of our Princess once again!

Monday, July 18, 2011


As a matter of record, I'm posting here what I posted to nominate the Princess Performing Arts, Education and Conference Centerto be included on the National Geographic "Geotourism MapGuide" for the East Tennessee River Valley.  The nomination was accepted and made "active" recently.  Now when travelers think of coming to this area on vacation they can easily find everything of interest in our area.  The Princess Theatre will soon be up and operating and there will be plenty of entertainment for visitors to enjoy.

I encourage you all to go to the nomination page (CLICK HERE) and give our Princess the thumbs up!

Soon Harriman, and the Roane County, Tennessee area will see a fourth rebirth of their beloved Princess Theater. The birth of the Princess came in 1926, but the theater was heavily damaged in 1932 by fire. In 1939 the theater was completely gutted by yet another fire! Ten months after that January fire, its second and most devastating fire, which caused and estimated 50,000 1939 dollars worth of damage, the Princess Theater reopened the third time to grand local fanfare and Hollywood well wishes.

After closing in 1999, a dream has been ever present in hearts and minds of many area residents. But maybe that dream burned most with Muse Watson and Gary Baker who had the idea of buying the Princess about the same time, however, in the beginning they were competitors. Muse heard that a “Harriman Business Man” was also interested in buying the Princess. Muse just knew that this “business man” was going to buy it first and “put in a parking lot”! So Muse calls Gary and they realize they have the same dream, a dream to preserve the Princess and create a place that children could come and learn about “the arts”. Not only could they learn about the arts, but come away with an educated experience that would serve them in careers in the arts and media. After talking it over several times, they decided to join forces, and together they bought the Princess. Later it was turned over to the City of Harriman, and is now waiting to be turned over to Roane State Community College.

In September of 2009, a the Princess Theater Board of Directors accepted a resolution stating thatThe Princess Theater Foundation Board accepts Frank Sparkman as the architect of record, as well as, the design and construction manager for the Princess Complex Project.
Frank Sparkman, of Sparkman & Associates Architects, Incorporated, has over 32 years of experience and expertise in theater restoration. Frank Sparkman has been dreaming of working on this project for nearly ten years, and began working with the foundation back in 2000.

The firm’s specialty is the restoration and preservation of historic buildings of all types. The Princess will be restored to its former glory, while bringing the interior up to current building and safety codes. Modernizing the Princess will be done in such a way as to preserve the historic qualities that will one day (hopefully soon) qualify the Princess Theatre to be added to National Registry of Historic Places.

The Princess will be the largest small town theater on which the firm has worked. The Princess ranks in the large category because of its 900 seating capacity (400 balcony/500 ground level). The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville is only a 750 seat facility. Naturally, seats have gotten larger, as we, as a people, have grown, so some space will be lost. Still the theater should remain in the large theatre category!
The Princess is currently reaching the end of a restoration project that will give the theater a new purpose and lease on life. The restoration project has been a long journey that began with a “dream”, a dream that almost didn’t happen due to lack of funding. However, with a Tennessee State grant for a “trailhead”, and a TVA grant given after the devastating Kingston ash spill, funding has been made available and the project is well on its way to a late fall 2011 grand opening.

The restored Princess Theater will be home to classic movies, reunions, gospel concerts, country and blue grass music shows and festivals, and stage productions. Since Roane State will have two theatre stages, more plays will give more students experience in lighting, prop building, sound engineering, TV and video camera and editing equipment, and, of course, the art of acting and directing. Remember too, that whatever happens on the Princess stage can be broadcast out on Comcast’s broadband network to numerous counties in East Tennessee, or even picked up from the fiber and uplinked to satellites that could take productions nationwide!

The Roane State/City of Harriman’s Channel 15 studio, which began broadcasting in December of 2010, itself will have the latest in sound engineering and recording, video/sound editing, switching, CGI set generation, and video cameras. It is conceivable that locally produced television programs could be uplinked to buyers like National Geographic, Discovery, and others. This is exactly how shows like “Dirtiest Jobs”, “Pickers”, “Pawn Shop”, etc. get produced and sold to cable channels. They originate in small studios by someone locally who also has a dream!

Roane State Community College will manage and perpetually preserve our dream. Once the restoration is complete, ownership will be transferred to RSCC. Through their educational funding, they will be able to add the new facilities to their funding care. This will mean that the floors will be swept, the lights will burn, the water will run, and the heat and air will run. The benefit to our children is that they can come to Roane State and prepare themselves for the future by taking “Mass Communications and Art” courses. These credits will be transferable to other four-year institutions. However, our students will have the added experience of actual hands-on television and theater productions work.

The Princess Performing Arts, Education and Conference Centerexemplifies a place where culture will be continually given to the residents of Harriman and the entire valley area. This historical facility is part of the local culture and lives in the hearts of those that were privileged to have enjoyed a Saturday matinee, or a weekend date with their first loves, there. This culture will be passed on to succeeding generations through movies, plays, music, and a unique learning experience. The Princess Theatre will also win over the hearts and minds of visitors to the area for years to come.

Seasons Open: The Princess will be open year around once the restoration is complete.

Hours Open: The lobby (Tennessee Trailhead) will be open M-Sat., 9 to 5

Fees: Depends on performance.

Eco-Friendly NotesThe theatre and marquee will utilize new LED technology for lighting.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I'm still getting consoled because the Princess Project has run out of money...sad, especially when one can just drive by and see that the restoration is alive and well!  I've stopped defending it verbally, and just ask them to check out the Princess are worth so much more than words.

Oh yea of little faith...what a great surprise it will be to you one day.  Yep, you'll wake up some glad morning, take off your blinders, and there she will be...still welcoming you to come inside, as if you had always believed!

So, if anyone whispers a rumor about the Princess to you, just direct them to this blog...more than enough said!
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