Geotourism Mapguide: A travel guide to the places most respected and recommended by locals.

Princess Performing Arts, Education, and Conference Center

The Princess Theatre in full makeup greeted passersby recently.
The last touches are being added to the Princess.  Outside the new marquee is almost finished, and its certainly wonderful to see it restored to its original beauty.
1939 professional photo of the Princess grand opening.
The Princess Theater in 1939
The Princess just prior to be closed in 1999.
The Princess in 2009 prior to the restoration.
The old seats are removed after restoration begins in 2010.
Princess auditorium during restoration work in 2011.
The "green screen" area of the new Channel 15 studio within the Princess Complex.
Channel 15's state-of-the-art equipment gives the Princess Complex a wonderful tool on which local students can hone their media skills.
Muse Watson (actor) and Gary Baker (business man) pour over architectural drawings of the planned restoration project.
Muse Watson (actor) and Gary Baker (local business man) who shared the original dream to give the Princess Theater new life and purpose.
James Ryan is the vendor doing the marquee restoration.  Here he is adding some final touches and hopes to be finished the week of January 29, 2012.
This is the new Channel 15 studio in Harriman.  It is part of the Princess Complex and already many students are attending classes in this facility.
These buildings are to the right of the new Princess and serve to extend the lobby, making room for new restrooms, concessions, an elevator, and a Tennessee State Trailhead.
The only thing lacking in the newly restored auditorium of the Princess are new curtains and the installation of lighting and sound equipment.  That is coming shortly.
The new fire-retardant blue cotton curtain was hung recently...another milestone in the restoration.
The new marquee with canopy lights was recently left on for supporters to see.  It was a grand occasion!
Passersby were greeted with a sneak preview of the Princess in full makeup recently!
The Princess Theatre Grand Opening is planned for March 22nd!  Marshall Tucker is to play on March 24th!
This was shot at the 1939 Grand Opening of the newly restored Princess Theatre by a Newsreel photographer.

On March 22, 2012, 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 an 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 has been restored to its former glory, while bringing the interior up to current building and safety codes. Modernizing the Princess has been 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 has reached the end of a restoration project, with only final touches and amenities remaining to be done, 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 complete, with a Grand Opening scheduled for March 22, 2012!

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 up-linked 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 completely finished, 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. Classes are already underway at the downtown Channel 15 TV studio location.

Check out the new Princess Theatre website at!

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.

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

Fees: Depends on performance.

 ADA Accessibility Notes

Several wheel chair parks have been included on both the auditorium and balcony levels.  Access to the balcony will be from a new elevator.  Hand rails have been put up in strategic locations in the lobby.  The lobby level restrooms are equipped for handicapped visitors, while the mezzanine level restrooms will remain vintage.

 Eco-Friendly Notes

The theatre and marquee will utilize new LED technology for lighting.

For More Information, Contact:

Paul Mashburn
421 Roane Street, Harriman, TN 37748

David Moody wrote on March 12, 2012: Wow!!!!!I cant wait until the grand opening and a tour of this masterpiece...I started going to the Princess in 1936 with my mother...Westerns,musicals and all...Our High School class of ’52' is celebrating the opening with 0ur 60th reunion. Thanks for all the hard work and the contributions..I know the facility is going to add much to the education and culture of all ....See you on the 22nd..

Debbie Anderson Roberts wrote on July 20, 2011: So happy to know that today's and tomorrow's students will have the opportunity to learn about the arts here at this beautiful venue! So proud that this has come to fruition and such memories will be swimming around in my head the first time I walk through those doors! Can't wait! A big THANK YOU to Muse Watson, Gary Baker and everyone involved!

Emily Braswell wrote on July 18, 2011: Bravi Tutti!

Rhonda Whiting Cecchin wrote on July 18, 2011: Wonderful Aritcle.. Looking forward to being involved with your programs. Gary Baker has been a man of vision. The Big South Fork Opry Production is anxiously awaiting the Princess opening and hope to link with some of the student programs in multi media. Our non profit is geared for this kind of venue. We are so excited.

Jim Thornton wrote on July 18, 2011: Always the place to be during the weekend, I just can't wait to walk through those doors again!

Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of the National Geographic Society.

Latitude: 35.934981200
Longitude: -84.550816000
Elevation: 795 FT (242 M)
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