PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


While these aren't the colorful letters we'll see soon, they are the clear plastic backing for the marquee letters.'s good to see "Princess" on the front of the theatre once again!

Watch closely as the red and blue letters (shown in the previous post) go up!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I stopped by Rocky Top Sign and Neon today and spoke with owner James Ryan.  We discussed the Princess project, and how things are getting rushed toward the end, and how much pressure he was to get the marquee up!  Naturally, any restoration project is going to be pushing to get it's most visible part up and functioning.  In the case of the Princess, it's the marquee that's the most visible!

I just happened to mention how much I wanted to be there when the first letter, hopefully the "P", was hung to take the historic photograph.  He said, "Why don't you take it now?"

As my granddaughter would say, "What!"

Yes, there they were, all spread out on his shop floor.  I was so happy to see them, and they surprised me too!  In my mind's eye I could see dull looking flat letters fastened to the front of the black and white sign that's now hanging there.  Nope, they will be raised letters, some 8 to 10 inches deep, and in the most brilliant red and blue baked on paint...just like the blueprints illustrate!

Each letter is outlined in a white stripe about an inch wide.  Each letter will have neon that will flash just like the original once did.  I know I've spoken about LED, but that's for the lights beneath the canopy.  The letters will be fitted with the latest in neon technology.

Look closely at the clear plastic letters laying on the new concessions counter (below) and 
you'll see that these plastic letters will enclose the back of each red or blue letter.  The clear plastic shapes attach to the marquee, enclosing the backside of each letter, and allow access for the electrical connection that will light up the neon letter shapes on the front of the letters.
The marquee will be as it looked in 1939 (above), which is much more beautiful than what most of us grew up knowing.  Double click the photo to see them larger!

CLICK HERE  to see what most of us remember.
In the '39 photo, you can easily see that the letters are raised, both the PRINCESS and the THEATRE letters.  You will also note that it is correctly "THEATRE".

Well James, I still want to be there when you hang the "P", but I'll have to say this was pretty exciting too!  Thanks!
Inside I was pleased to see that all the seats are now in place.  It now looks like a theatre!

Also, I can't get over how much the actual photo above looks like the blog header!  The drawings were a better depiction of what we were to see than any of us ever thought.

Everything seems ready for the carpet!
To the rear of the stage a strong trap door has been built to cover the stairs down to the basement, giving the stage an extra three or four feet of performance space.
Out in the lobby, the terrazzo has been filled and sanded down, and over in the concessions lobby the elevator doors are on and the lift is operational.

Hang on won't be long now!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Just last week the restoration drew praise from those passionate about preservation, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance, who announced that Harriman’s effort was a winner of the 2011 East Tennessee Preservation Award!

This week, due out soon, watch for an article and photo spread in the Knoxville Metro Pulse magazine.

You'll probably see better photos than I've been providing, so please don't miss it.  Pick up a copy of the new issue due out today or tomorrow, or go on line by clicking on the link provided above.

In the meantime, since the "Pulse" is doing an exposé, I might as well post some of my own "full" interior shots!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I visited the Princess today and walked into the "concession" area, where Dr. Tappan used to have his practice, and then made my usual rounds through the auditorium, upstairs to the balcony, and back stage.  I came back to where I came in and there sat the new concessions counter!  It hadn't been 15 minutes!
So, it just goes to show you that things are happening rapidly at the Princess.  Most things are on schedule, but there are a few "hard to find" items that are making an opening a little hard to define.  
I've decided that I don't care...I want it open, but I want it to be presentable too!

With a project this bold and complex, an opening date has always been a moving target. I'm thinking that a 2011 opening is a bit ambitious, and that January is looking better.

In the meantime, I'll try my best to keep you up to date with all the changes that are happening.  Believe me, it is really coming together well and everyone has done a terrific job!

 New instrumentation has been added to the "art deco" walls, like these alarm and HVAC controls, but the paint scheme is really looking great.  The paint crew is working everywhere it seems; trying to cover up old paint, but mostly trying to stay ahead of the scratches and dents the construction causes.

The elevator is almost ready...I scared the maintenance man today with a surprise flash!  You can see here that there are a lot of wires, chains, and other gadgets to install.

The new restrooms are being fitted with vanities and sinks, and these additions are going to mean so much to us later.  Remember when there were only 2 to 3 stalls in both old bathrooms?  Well, we should not have to wait in line long in the future!

And, if you're as old as me, you can remember the era of segregation when black citizens had separate restrooms upstairs. [Thankfully we don't have to endure that degradation anymore.]

Those spaces are now rooms for part of the HVAC systems.  We can now enjoy the new facilities, up or downstairs, together; as it should have been.
The seats are still being assembled and they are working both the auditorium floor and the balcony area. 
However, never fear...the opening will be as soon as possible, and we would not want it to be too soon!  The Princess needs to open looking her best.

Don't you agree?

Thursday, November 10, 2011


For twenty-five years, Bill Landry has been the voice and face of The Heartland Series on WBIR, Channel 10. In fact, retired Knoxville News Sentinel Senior Writer, Fred Brown, describes Landry as “East Tennessee’s favorite uncle, the one with all the good stories that have become so familiar and popular.

The Heartland Series premiered in 1984 to showcase the 50th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Landry quickly emerged as host, narrator, and co-producer of the show. Over the twenty-five years, the “Heartland” team produced 1,900 short 3 ½ minute features and 150 half-hour specials. The show received four Emmy awards, two of which Landry won for direction.

Landry grew up in Chattanooga, and earned a degree in literature from the University of Tennessee and a master’s of fine arts degree from Trinity University and the Dallas Theater Center. He wrote and produced a one-man play about Albert Einstein called Einstein the Man and traveled 38 states and two provinces in Canada to give over 1,000 performances, which he continues to do. The book, Einstein the Man was published in 2000 and multiple copies given to every school within the state of Tennessee. 

From 1982-1984, he worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority before beginning work on The Heartland Series, one of the longest-running productions in regional television history.

Today, Bill and his wife Becky live in a log cabin built in 2007 in Blount County, Tennessee. Appropriately, it sits adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bill will be at David Webb's Rocky Top General Store, in South Harriman, on Saturday, November 12, 2011 to sign copies of his new book, "Appalachain Tales & Heartland Adventures." 

It's from 12:00 -- 3:00.  There will be hot cider and warm fellowship!

See you there!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


No, the Princess isn't quite ready for you yet, but your seat is being stalled this week, and one will be reserved for you on opening night!  The new seats, which were donated by Regal Cinemas, are being assembled, piece-by-piece...literally (see photo), this week and are being install according to Frank Sparkman's engineering drawings.  It appears the seating will be five abreast on each side, with 10 in each of the middle rows.  This configuration promises the most seats for the floor space, but until they are all in, the exact count can't accurately be determined.

The six seats shown are in each of the back corners of the main floor auditorium and offer space for a wheel-chair bound patron and three companions at each of these four rows.

The comfy cushioned seats look brand new, and are burnt orange with black trim.  The burnt orange will probably match a pattern in the carpet yet to be installed.

I was also pleased to see that the cracks patched in the terrazzo had dried and been ground down, and it appears to be a perfect match!  Again, I can hardly wait to see it all polished and sealed, and looking like new again.

Out front, Tim Plemons and crew, have painted over the weather-proof paneling beneath the marquee, and gives us hope that soon the entire Princess will be "spic'n span" and inviting us in.

However, one of my greatest finds today was this scene in one of the upstairs rooms of the Tappan building.  The ceiling has been repaired, but the walls and everything else still awaits further work.  These upstairs rooms will not see full restoration until much later down the road, but will be important to the Princess Complex in the future.

But, I couldn't help but try and capture the lighting that streamed in from outside and played on the old wooden floor.  We should remember, that these old 1890's buildings are treasures in themselves, and we should be appreciative of the second chance we are getting to see and use them in our live time.  Roane Street is full of such treasures, and they all stand waiting for someone with vision to turn them into useful spaces for a new generation.

Friday, November 4, 2011


It used to be that I'd have to wait a month to see real change in the progress at the Princess.  Now, if I don't go every few days, I can miss out on lots of little changes.  Things are really, happening at a fast pace now, and it won't be long before you will see a notice posted here for a grand event!

James Ryan and Adam (forgive me I forgot his last name), of Rocky Top Sign & Neon, are busy most days putting on the metal face of the marquee.  He begins this week finishing up the neon at his shop, and I plan on dropping by to capture a few great moments in neon for history.

I was under the misconception that the marquee was going to be a giant one-piece sign that a crane would have to hoist into place.  Not so!  The frame of the marquee is all wood, some having to be molded into a curved shape that goes up first.  It is then wrapped in black and white metal, which has a plastic shield on the outside to protect it from scratches during installation.  That will be peeled off once the sign is completed covered.

The metal will protect the wood from the weather and keep the marquee sturdy and shiny for years to come.  Over this will be the neon...more on that later.

Inside, Tim Plemons and crew are still painting the vast interior, which has included the auditorium floor.  Some time next week the burgundy seats donated by Regal Cinemas will be bolted into place.  It will then look like a theatre inside as well.  I'm not going to publish any more wide shots of the interior until after the grand opening.  We want it to be a total surprise to you when you walk into the auditorium for the first time!

However, I will post a close shot or two of the seats just to tease you!

The new bathroom additions are being completed, and the ladies will happy to know that there are six new stalls in the Princess, besides the original ones.  The men too will have new extra facilities to enjoy, and there will be drinking fountains conveniently located throughout the lobby area.

The elevator lift and loading platform are in place, awaiting the actual elevator compartment.  This will make seats in the balcony more convenient to everyone, including the handicapped.

Almost unnoticed under foot in the lobby is the work being done to restore the original terrazzo flooring to its original shine.  The breaks in the beautiful old flooring are being properly filled, ground, sanded, and buffed to bring it back to life, and give it at least another 70 years of life!  I can hardly wait to see this floor returned to even better luster than I remember from my time in the sixties.  

Put it all together and you have a reborn venue; perhaps a transformation from a mere theater to a grand theatre.  She will be ready again to receive the title she was once given by newspapers and newsreels as a "temple to the arts"!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


If you have been waiting for the Princess Theatre to open before volunteering to help, here's what you need to do ASAP!

We expect the Princess to formally open with a grand fanfare sometime within the next two months.  With any restoration there are always going to be unforeseen circumstances that prevent a specified opening date to be met.  That's why there has been no firm date committed as yet.  It's better to get things "ship shape" before opening the doors to disappointment and complaints.  So, the actual date will be announced here, and through other resources, as soon as the architect and manager deems things are definitely ready.

However, if you want to be on the team of folks doing whatever is required to ensure a great theatre experience, then stop by Harriman Jewelry, H.G. Furniture, or Rocky Top General Store and pick up a "Princess Volunteer Form", and get it mailed to Megan Anderson, or just returned to the store, ASAP!

The form gives you several ideas where help will be needed, or you can describe something else that fits your expertise or interest.

What are you interested in volunteering for at the Princess (check all that apply):
o    Usher (seating people & taking tickets)
o    Greeter
o    Ticket Office
o    Sound
o    Lights
o   Lobby Supervisor (supervising lobby during trailhead hours & greeting people as the enter)
o    Help clean up after events
Other _____________________________________________

If you are on the Princess mailing list, then a copy of this form will be emailed to you soon.  If not...look for the email address for the Princess in the right sidebar and let me know if you want to be included.

If you have volunteered for other events in Harriman, such as "Crusin'", you will still need to fill out another form.  Once the forms are received, Megan Anderson and Wilma Mullins will be setting up meetings.

Remember, you can mail the form to Megan (address is on the form), or simply return it to the store where you got it.

Volunteering is what we "Tennesseans" do!  It will also give you great personal satisfaction, and let you be part of a history making event; the rebirth of our Princess!
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