PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Long time supporter, Jim Henry, who has worked tirelessly in the background for the Princess cause, his son John, and brother-in-law David Arp, a 1964 graduate of Harriman High, visited the Princess restoration site Saturday afternoon.

John and Jim Henry, Kathy and David Arp, and Gary Baker back stage.
Taking an hour out prior to attending the Class of '64's 65th Birthday Party, the group walked through the sheet rock dust to see how things are progressing.  The most impressive part of the tour was seeing the "art deco" ceiling taking shape above the auditorium floor.

Tim Plemons took a few moments out to tell Jim, and his party, how well things were coming out, and how honored he was to be part of history.  The original painter was not fortunate enough to have a "blogger/historian" like me follow his progress as closely as Tim does!

Working from the engineering drawings, shown in the previous post, Tim is progressing on schedule and hopes to be painting the ticket booth entrances soon.  When this happens, along with the long awaited hanging of the new marquee, we will know our Princess is just about ready to receive a new generation of happy patrons!  I'm hearing mid-November, but restoration projects often hit pot holes along the way.  Let's cross our fingers that this does not happen to us.

Jim Henry is confident that the Princess will make a huge impact on Harriman, Roane and surrounding counties, as well as, the entire East Tennessee region.  The Princess will never be a "first run" commercial theater like before, but she will be a grand "theatre" showing classic movies, music shows and festivals, movie and art festivals, stage plays, and just a grand place to have meetings, dances, marriages, business shows, and other informative and educational events.

Most of all, children will once again have age appropriate things to do on Saturdays.  They too will begin to build memories of the Princess.  They will have a TV and radio station, and stage with/on which to learn the arts, communications, and media skills.  This complex of "hands-on-tools" will enhance their education experience at Roane State and area high schools.
David Arp, his wife and mom, along with Julian Ahler at the Princess.
David Arp, a long time friend and classmate of mine, was also impressed with the transition the Princess has made during the restoration.  He remembered his days of coming to the Princess, and "sneaking into the balcony", like most of us did!  Those are memories that only small-town America can offer!

I'm getting so excited!  I get more excited each time I visit the site, and especially when I'm there with someone my age, or older, and hear their memories, and see the excitement in their eyes as they see the fresh paint for the first time!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Well, truthfully it hasn't been quite 2 years, but in November 2009 I took photos of the inside of the Princess before any restoration work began.  I wanted to document the project from beginning to end.

The old leaky roof was still in place and water poured in every time there was inclement weather.  Knowing this, made my heart ache whenever there was snow or rain for 9 months.  Everything below was wet, moldy, and rusting in place!  The new roof was constructed in August of 2010.

I shot this light fixture that day, and since there is no shiny new metal above it, I know the new roof was not yet in place.  Real restoration work didn't really begin until around July 2010 when the old seats were removed and hauled away.  They were in very sad shape; mold, rust, rot, and more rust was devouring them!

The new fixtures are going up, but they are not yet complete, because, if you look at the blog header (above) you can distinctly see that there is glass between the second and bottom tier, and also attached to the bottom of the last tier.

Against the new paint, being added by Tim Plemons, we can get a little glimpse of the finished product.  The restored 1939 fixtures hanging from a beautifully restored "art deco" painted ceiling will greet us at the grand opening.  It will bring to mind the days when the Princess still showed its true colors; from the ceiling to the floor.

Tim Plemons is following Frank Sparkman's architectural drawings in order to recreate the paint scheme as closely as possible.  All the colors, shapes, and measurements are recorded for him to follow.  Does that make it easy?  Think about it...he has to take a little rendition the draftsman created on paper, and make it span exactly on the huge Princess ceiling!  He does it all either crouching or laying on his back while doing it!

Tim taking a rare break.  It's rare to actually sit or stand doing this work.
Around the old fixture photo above, you can see a little of the original paint.  This was just one of the clues Sparkman had when he had to recreate the paint scheme and colors for the restoration.  Without this, and a couple of other clues, the work could have never matched the original intent of the original architect, Joe Holman, and Crescent management.

As my project work t-shirt says, "We're turning the lights on!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My friend Jim Young just forwarded me a photo that his friend, James Finch of Oak Ridge, took back in 1978 of the Princess.  It was taken a night, so the lighting isn't the best, but you can see the Acme (where Channel 15 is today) and Margrave Drug (where the extended lobby stretches today) stores on either side, and a couple walking in front.  It is possible they are waiting to by a ticket, but there just isn't enough detail, and the perspective is not that advantageous.

However, it still brings back memories of a time gone by when people walked Roane Street at night, and when seeing someone standing buying a ticket was not uncommon.

There is a time coming when seeing people standing in the same position will again be taken for granted.  However, I hope we never again take the Princess for granted.  I hope we remember the recent past and know that good things can be taken away from us.  Maybe that way we will work harder at preserving and protecting the things that give our lives meaning.

Thanks Jim and James for sharing this photo with us Princess lovers!

Friday, September 23, 2011


Torry Martin, Sandy Brownlee, and Denny Brownlee visited the Princess last week.  The three, along with Marshal Younger, who will take a tour later, are looking for a “Princess” to star in their next movie called “The Christmas Star”, which centers around a small-town theater, coincidently named “The Princess”.  The group heard about our Princess through Muse Watson, who never misses a chance to spread the Princess gospel wherever he goes.
Gary Baker, Torry Martin, Sandy and Denny Brownlee visit the Princess
Torry Martin is an award-winning screenwriter, humor columnist, actor, comedian, speaker, author, storyteller and teacher.  He has written several episodes of the audio series “Adventures in Odyssey” where he created the popular character of Wooton Bassett. Martin is also a two-time Christian Artists Gospel Music Association Grand Prize Winner for his acting and writing abilities. To learn more about him, visit his website at  And just for fun, to see Torry in a recent Wonderful Pistachio commercial CLICK HERE!
Our guests seem pleased with recent progress.
Sandy Brownlee is a writer, actress, and a transmedia  advisor.  Sandy has written for radio, stage, television and film.  She helped develop and was the primary writer for the original children's character “Discovery Jones” on the Inspirational Network, as well as for INSPs “Cheyenne Country.”  She's created seven full length radio dramas; eight full-length stage productions; and eight original sketch comedy dinner theaters.

Denny Brownlee is an actor, writer, voice-over talent, and songwriter.  He was the original children's character, Discovery Jones, on the Inspirational Network, and spent 12 years as the Morning Show co-host for the Family Life Network, writing more than 1000 comedy bits.  But Denny is best known for his classic parody, “Blue Christmas,” sung like Porky Pig.  He's written for INSP, Jefferson Productions, Bruce Wilkinson, and numerous national and regional conferences.
Matt Waters explains the importance of Channel 15 to the Princess Complex
Sandy Brownlee will be co-writing this current screenplay with Torry, along with his regular co-writer Marshal Younger.

Marshal Younger has written over 100 episodes of the popular audio drama “Adventures in Odyssey”, a show he also directed and produced. He is the writer of several screenplays, including “A Greater Yes”, from PureFlix Entertainment. He is also the author of many stage plays and sketches, as well as the children's book series, Kidsboro. He currently lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his wife and four children.

Here is just a juicy taste of the “The Christmas Star” story treatment:

Harriman, Tennessee had everything a small Southern town should have:  a good diner...  friendly neighbors... and big news the whole town could gossip about.  At the center of the buzz was The Princess Theater... a gilded Lady whose velvet curtains hid a silver screen - and a world of dreams.  For decades, The Princess was the heart of Harriman's social life, but somewhere along the way the world passed The Princess by. Finally, her bright lights dimmed, and she closed her doors for good. That is, until the day Grady Garrett came back home."

Sounds tantalizing, doesn't it!

So, Princess lovers, if our Princess wins the leading role, out of the hundreds of Princess Theaters auditioning across the country, it will be something really great for her and us!  Who knows, even our Muse may be asked to star in the lead role!
Megan Anderson explains the role of the Princess in Harriman's future
Muse and Torry have actually discussed that possibility, but it will depend on Muse's schedule.  He is currently rehearsing for the stage production of “A Christmas Snow” in Branson, MO, which will run through the months of October and November this year.  I've already bought my tickets, and you might like to kick off your Holiday Season by taking your family to see the heartwarming seasonal play.

I hope you don't mind, but I extended your help to Torry Martin and company.  I told him that Harriman would be behind such an undertaking in our area.  I offered your help in opening up homes and businesses if needed as backgrounds/sets for his movie.  I told him people here have vintage autos, loads of media experience, and, more than anything else, warm hearts and a “can do” attitude.
We love our Princess and we offer her to the success of this project!  Call on us anytime!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Wow folks!  I must admit that I had three great experiences today at the Princess: first, Tim Plemons is applying the original "art deco" paint scheme to the auditorium ceiling, second, I met Megan Anderson for the first time, and third I met Torry Martin! The first two thrills I will post here today, but I'm saving Torry Martin's visit until next time.  Suffice it to say, he may have some great plans for our Princess in the coming months!

But first, I was so surprised and elated today when I caught Tim Plemons (Superior Interior) laying on his back, like Michelangelo Buonarroti painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painting the Princess ceiling! Can you imagine the crick he has in his neck every evening after work?!
Colors as seen through iPhone.

Tim is following the "art deco" paint scheme as was shown in old color photos and descriptions of the original design. Plus, there is no mistaking what was found on the ceiling and walls during the restoration.  

Strict adherence to originally is required when registering historic buildings in the National Register of Historic Places, which will be the next logical step for the Princess Theatre.

Colors as seen through DSLR.

Some younger folks may not care much for the "art deco" scheme, but for me it couldn't be any more perfect.  First, it's the way it was meant to be, and second, it's what I remember as a kid growing up there on Saturdays!  

Outside those two reasons, I also want her listed in the "National Registry" so she can take her rightful place along side other great restorations from that era.

Art deco ‎ (ɑrt ˈdɛk), or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era.

I was also thrilled to meet Megan Anderson, the manager of the new Princess.  She is everything I had hoped for; young, energetic, excited and proud to be part of the Princess history, and wants to become an integral part of the community.  She talks excitedly about what the Princess can become and how much it will mean to us all.  She sees young people again coming to build their own memories and since of pride in the Princess, and therefore, in their local communities.

Megan plans on maintaining a full-time presence, in her office, at the Princess, answering questions, giving tours, and making calls to potential performance artists to keep something going at the Princess all the time.  She also thinks the stage at the Princess will pull in larger audiences for Roane State performances.  All these things will bring more people downtown, more students, more people seeking good wholesome entertainment, and ultimately more businesses catering to crowds that come to the theatre.

Hey, she's talking about our dream!  It only took her a few days to see the same vision and purpose others saw over 10 years ago.

So, if you see her standing out on the street, looking up at the Princess and dreaming futuristic dreams, stop and talk to her awhile.  Offer her your ideas, your help and support.  You'll love her too...she's already one of us!  

Want you join us!?

Friday, September 2, 2011


Stopped in at the Princess Theatre today and rambled around in all the darkest corners...wearing my hardhat, as is required,...and things seem to be happening at a faster and faster pace these days.  

Lots of sheet-rock has been hung, including on the auditorium ceiling, and the street facade is being fine tuned, and looking good I might add.

As you can see, the scaffolding is still up, but there's lots of work left to do up there!
Under the marquee canopy, architect Frank Sparkman specified the use of Lafarge Weather Defense® Platinum Type X drywall is a moisture, mold and fire-resistant exterior wall sheathing.  That should protect her for a while!
Upon top of the "Margrave/Tappan" buildings, numerous AC units are being fitted into place.  Mitch, the guy that escorted me up there, told me that even the small passages within the Princess  Complex will be heated and cooled.  That's the reason I saw small, medium, and large units being set into place.

The larger AC units will be mounted on the four frames shown here.
Looking from the alley toward Roane Street.
The access to the roof is only through a small hole (the one you can see going west on Roane Street) the crew knocked through the top most northeast corner of the Princess, and this ol' boy grunted considerably while scooting through!  I should not have worn my shorts 'cause I have a few scratches to show for my effort due to my inflexibility!

To wrap it up, here are a couple of miscellaneous photos!
The wooden chute at left is how roof debris gets into the dumpster below!
Told you the view was terrific from up there!

Back stage where some of the speakers will rest.

Related Posts with Thumbnails