Monday, June 02, 2008


Some of you may remember my post “The Princess Theater” back in July of 2007. I said then that there was an effort underway to restore the theater. Well, I’m happy to report that is happening now and being pushed forward by two neighborhood friends Gary Baker and Bennie Lowery. You’ll remember Bennie, or Jaybee, from “It Was the Summer of ‘62”. Gary and Bennie (of Dallas, TX) have stayed in contact all these years and are business partners. They are now involved in “Share the Vision” a group dedicated in bring about the restoration of the Princess Theater and revitalize downtown Harriman, Tennessee.

Share the Vision,” is a program determined to restore Harriman’s Princess Theater, and is sponsored by the Roane Alliance and spear headed by Gary Baker and Muse Watson of Harriman, Tennessee. An awareness kick off was held Friday evening (5/30) in the O’Brien Theater on the main campus of Roane State Community College. Muse Watson and Bill Landry hosted the event, that featured Marshal Andy, Luke Brandon, the Pick’N’Grin Bluegrass Band featuring Larry Mathis and Bud Brewster and other area talent.

Bennie sent me an email last night telling me about the awareness party held Saturday evening at Doctor Terry Bingham’s home. Bennie was in town to help Gary with the “Raise the Curtain” program. He wrote:

“It started at Roane State Friday night and ended at Dr. Bingham's house last night. Gary (Baker) and Terry (Bingham) threw a great party to kick it off with Clint Black as entertainment. So if you hear rumors it was true he (Black) was in Harriman. In attendance were the likes of Bill Landry, Muse Watson, Archie Bell, Coach Pearl, Dr. Goff and a whole host of City, County and State officials.

It was done Right and now the awareness is in the right places. I hope money can follow the will to get a viable venue for talent in Roane County.”

The Princess Theater first opened in 1926, but the 900 seat Princess was damaged by fire six years later. In 1939, the theater was completely destroyed by a blaze, but was rebuilt in within 10 months with an “Art Deco” design with 854 seats, courtesy of Paramount Studios.

During World War II, while the secret city Oak Ridge was under construction a few miles away, there were three showings a day, each one sold out.

The theater screened its last movie in 1999, when Cecil Johnson, long time operator and lessee of the building, retired. It officially closed in 2001.

Local officials are now joining hands with Hollywood bad guy Muse Watson to restore and revitalize the theater. Their plans include a $1.9 million renovation with a vision of creating a new public access TV station for Harriman, run by Roane State Community College.

Other hopes are that the Tennessee Technology Center will teach theater lighting and stage design, while Roane County public schools may use the building for programs, plays and events.

It would be an ideal location for weddings, concerts, dance recitals and screenings of classical movies,” Baker has stated. It's hoped a vibrant Princess Theater will lure restaurants, specialty shops and other new businesses downtown.”


~Fathairybastard~ said...

Happy for ya. Sure is a cool place.

Scott from Oregon said...

We have places like that out here in the West. The constant threat to their demise is the fact that we have earthquakes.

Buildings that old are oftentimes ripe for collapse when a big one rolls through.

The fact that they hold a lot of people makes it a scary proposition...

Hammer said...

All the cool old theaters in my home town are shutting down too.

Either that or going XXX

Sassy said...

Hey Mushy, when I seen that photo I had to do a double glance. See we have our very own Princess Theater here in North Alabama. Ours is up and running and has been for years. Though I have never personally stepped foot into it, I have drove by it several times.

Princess Theater

I honestly didn't know there were
more of these around the country. Shows how much I know huh?

Mushy said...

Good to know Sassy...maybe ours will reopen as well.

You should go...just to say you've been!

pat houseworth said...

History by any other name...good one Mushy!

Our old single movie house in Celina was built in 1949(same year as I was hatched) still stands but now has 5 movie screens, but has retained most of the old seats, and memories.

*Goddess* said...

Nice to see someone trying to save these old landmarks instead of razing them all the time.

Becky said...

One thing that's kind of cool about Seattle is that they're so protective over anything historical so we've got a lot of buildings like this around here. But, it also goes to show that a few individuals can make a difference.