Opening of the Pocahontas Theater

Welch Daily News
December 22, 1928

Pocahontas Theatre Opens Here Christmas Day

Magnificent New Structure, Built at Cost of $100,000, One of the Finest in The State

Is Operated by John W. Blakely

Building Owned by Brewster Realty Company - Seats 1,264

Magnificent in design, beautiful in appearance, and the last word in theatre architecture, the new Pocahontas Theatre, pride of Welch and one of the finest play homes in West Virginia, will open its doors here Tuesday afternoon. Christmas play. The christening performance will begin at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon, with the showing of Clara Bow, in "Three Week Ends" the premier Paramount production of the year, which is scheduled for release today.

No doubt many movie fans will take advantage of the opportunity of attending the opening day performances, for it is the natural ambition of the public to be the first on such occasions.

Its Operator

Before going into detail concerning the design of the building, its decorations, etc., and comparisons with Welch's old playhouse, it is only proper to say that the Pocahontas will be operated by John W. Blakely, who has been engaged in this business in Welch for 10 years.

Mr. Blakely, who is also know as the city's three-term mayor, being elected each time without opposition, has realized a dream that has extended from the time he took over the operation of the old Welch theatre back in 1918. This first building could almost be placed on the stage of the new structure, but is far from being a comparison with the new Pocahontas.

Mr. Blakely has leased the theatre part of the building for over a period of years, from the Brewster Realty company, owners.

Elwood Davidson is manager of the new play house. He has spent 10 years of his 24 in the business, in Welch, running theatres for Mr. Blakely. He is also proud of the new building and by contracts has arranged for his patrons nothing but pictures of the highest type, released by the internationally known producers such as Metro-Goldwin Mayer, Paramount or Famous Players Laskey, and First National.

Not only will first class pictures be shown, but in season high class vaudeville, musical comedies dramas and plays will be brought here. Mr. Davidson has been very successful in furnishing Welch with high class musical comedies and plays with some of the nation's leading actors and actresses appearing here during the past several years.

He is assisted by Mrs. Davidson, who will be at the ticket booth, by first class operators of the movie projecting machines, and by ushers who are well trained in their duties. Unlike the old theatre, ushers will be uniformed in the near future, although they may not be on opening day.

Now the Building

The large theatre building is 172 feet long, 68 feet wide at the front and 78 feet wide at the rear. The large width at the rear is for the stage, which is unusually large and on which four carloads of scenery and other stage property may be handled without any inconvenience.

Construction of the building was begun on July 2, with excavation work by Green & Stowe, local contractors, which firm also contracted for the building construction.

The structure is of brick, concrete and steel with very little woodwork, making it almost fireproof. It is located on one of the most valuable sites in Welch and was constructed at a cost of $100,000.

Not having any connection whatever with the theatre itself several spacious and finely finished office rooms are located on the second appearance of McDowell street in the evenings.

Trip Through Theatre

The water will now endeavor to take the reader on a word trip through the theatre building. The close observer of such a fine structure cannot but admire every phase of the design, the immense size of the auditorium, the stage, the dressing rooms, the fine seating arrangement also with the large seating capacity, and probably one of the most attractive features, the decorating overhead.

On entering the theatre one passes under the marquiese, which is constructed of metal and wood, attractive in design. Many lights will be used for the sign work, which will be lighted only at night.

The patron enters the outside lobby, which contains the ticket booth. This lobby is approximately 18 feet in width, with about the same depth and is unprotected. Purchasing the ticket, which is given you by an electric machine, another new improvement over the old Welch theatre, one enters the main lobby, which is protected in both front and rear by heavy glass swinging doors. Going through the main lobby the patron then enters the foyer which connects the main auditorium by means of a large passaway about 18 feet in width. Just before entering the foyer the colored patrons take the stairs to the right which leads to their section, where more than 150 seats have been provided for their comfort.

Connecting the foyer on the right upon entering, is the ladies rest room, while to the left upon entering, is the men's rest room. The ladies rest room is furnished with all conveniences, such as chairs, a table and even to smoking stands, which are provided for those who like their cigarette.

The floor is covered with a thick and attractive carpet, while the floor of the men's rest room is of tile.

The office is also connected with the foyer. A neat and attractive office has been provided for the management and his assistants.

Two large and finely cushioned davanettes will also be placed in the foyer, as well as pictures of a few leading stars of the screen and stage and leading producers.

Beautiful lighting fixtures add to the attractiveness of the foyer, as well as the wood finished walls of a dark walnut color. The ceiling is especially attractive being finished in the texture work, with colors of green and gold blended together.

No Congestion

The large passageway from the foyer into the auditorium will eliminate any possible congestion from crowds passing in and out of the theatre. This passageway is a slight incline from the auditorium to the foyer. Entering the auditorium, if one does not halt briefly to admire the decorations, the only course left to the patron is to take his seat, with more than 1,000 provided, that look especially inviting with their appearance resembling the last word in comfort.

These seats were installed by the American Seating company, of Chicago, and are about the finest to be found in West Virginia or Virginia. The backs are of a velour material and are of light red, while the seat is of leather and other materials about four and other materials about four and inches thick. One could sit for hours without becoming the lease tiresome, it is believed, and the discomfort of a patron could never be placed on the seat.

Each row of seats has been so installed that the patron looks between the heads of those in front and practically every part of the stage may be seen from any angle in the spacious auditorium.

Aisles are wide eliminating also congestions here. Each aisle is covered with thick carpeting, discarding all noise of one making way to the seat. The upper section of the auditorium promised to be quite popular. Here is provided more than half the seating capacity, with the incline extending to the colored section. The voice of an actor or actress may be heard distinctly from any part of the house.

The Machine Booth

The machine booth is located just above the colored section. In this little house like both are located the two new Simplex projecting machines, which throw their rays on the silver screen, producing the movie.

From this booth the large curtains and stage scenery may be operated by the press of a button as well as the lights in the auditorium. Just the press of the button and a message is sent to an electric motor, which begins to operate, and immediately the curtain begins to rise, or the switch of scenery begins.

Lights and the curtain rising and lowering may be done by the same method back stage, buttons being installed there for this purpose.

The Lighting System

One of the most interesting features of the entire theatre is the system of lighting the auditorium. The press of the button in the machine booth or back stage, this depending on whether or not a movie is being shown or a play presented, and the lights begin to fade or brighten, whichever the occasion may call for.

At the beginning of a performance the lights are dimmed, not suddenly but slowly, much resembling the fading of red light from the coils of an electric stove when it is cut off. At the end of a performance the lights are switched on in the same manner, brightening slowly.

Not a single electrical fixture or globe is visible in the auditorium, and no white lights are installed, they being of orange, blue and red.

Lights on the walls are placed in box-like fixtures, known as ledges, which are attractively decorated, while in the ceiling there is the atmospheric lighting system. Here in the center of the auditorium is a sky blue space, resembling to the eye a cloudless night. By means of this system, which s the last word in theatre designing, hundreds of tiny stars appear in the blue area. Around this blue area is a ledge where red, blue and orange lights are located.

In other parts of the building are found handsome fixtures, but the lighting fixture is not visible in the auditorium.

The Decorations

The decoration work by the Egelhoff Studio Co., of Columbus, O., with Cleo Nelli, being the interior decorator on the job, is of more than usual attractiveness.

The walls are of the texture design, with colors of reds, oranges and yellows being blended in making them very attractive. On the ceiling just in front of the stage is a space painted to give a sunset affect, with many colors being used. Proscenium work bordering around the stage also adds to the beautiful appearance of the auditorium.

Attractive decorations are also about the pipe organ booths, no box seats being installed. The organ mechanism is located in the same positions as in the old Welch theatre, but have been installed in a very much more attractive manner.

Orchestra Pit

Another improvement over the old theatre here, is the large orchestra pit at the foot of the stage. Space has been provided for the appearance of unusually large orchestras, the piano section of the pipe organ also being located in the pit.

The Pipe Organ

In addition at a cost of approximately $,000 has been added to the Wurlitzer pipe organ, installed in the old theatre several months ago. The organ will be played by W. C. Crookshanks, organist here for several months.

The addition to the organ makes it one of the largest in operation in West Virginia theatres. The additional equipment will give a clearer tone.

An approximate value of the organ is now $20,000 making it one of the most expensive in West Virginia as well as one of the largest. The Wurlitzer organ is in use all over the worldand that here is the same used in the large theatres.

The stage of the Pocahontas is much larger than that of the old Welch theatre. In the old play house it was nothing unusual for large musical comedies and revues to be forced to leave out part of its program and scenery because of the small stage.

Now however, the largest of shows will find every convenience of the large city theatre here, space being provided for four carloads of stage property to be stored during the presentation of a play.

The stage has an opening of 35 feet, compared to 28 feet in the Welch theatre building. It is 38 feet deep and is 78 feet in width, with the 35 foot opening, 25 feet on one side extra space and 15 feet on the other side of the opening. The 78 feet was provided so that a large chorus would find no difficulty lining up before making its appearance on the stage.

Four carloads of stage property may also be stored while a show is in progress.

From the floor of the stage to giant rafters, from where the scenery ropes work is a distance of 46 feet.

Nearly four miles of rope was used for the scenery shifting mechanism alone. The scenery, as has been said before is changed by means of electrically operated motors and counter weights.

Dressing Rooms

Rooms have been provided for the dressing quarters, a section under the stage, with sufficient space for a cast of 250 persons. There are eight small dressing rooms and two larger rooms. All dressing rooms are equipped with the necessary fixtures and furniture, and according to the management there will be times when casts of 200 or more persons will play in the Pocahontas.

These dressing quarters are practically fireproof. They are constructed of concrete, with white plastered walls, and are very attractive. They all connect with one another and running, hot and cold water will be provided.

The dressing quarters connect with the stage by means of a short concrete stairway. Each entrance to the dressing quarters is guarded by fire doors. In case of fire these doors close slowly, working automatically, when the heat reaches a certain degree.

The unusual size of the dressing quarters eliminates all possible congestion here as has been the case in the old theatre. Numerous times members of casts have been so crowded that some had to dress in the hotels and then make their way to the theatre.

Eight Exits to House

There are eight exits from the building which may be used in case of an emergency, but it is unlikely that these will ever be put into service, due to the fine construction of the building, being erected of concrete, brick and steel, with very little woodwork.

Five of these exits are from the side, while three are through the main entrance, where hundreds could easily make their way out with little difficulty.

It has been estimated that a full house of more than 1,200 persons could be emptied from the auditorium within three or four minutes at the least, provided there is no disorder. All exits are marked with lights of red "EXIT" and lead to steel fire escapes of the latest design.

Doors to the side exits may be opened from the inside easily in case of an emergency, but not from the outside, there being no knob or other instrument on the outside. These doors are constructed of metal.

The location of the Pocahontas is very desirable, being erected on McDowell stret, probably the city's most buy thoroughfare space sufficient for hundreds of automobiles will be found just a short distance from the house, as well as drug stores, department stores, hotels and other business houses.

It is built on one of the most valuable pieces of property in the city and is quite an addition to the appearance of McDowell street.

Adjoining the main entrance are two store rooms, one on each side with attractive fronts and white plastered walls on the interior. A glass partition separates the front lobby of the theatre from the store rooms.

The building was designed by Alex B. Mahood of Bluefield and supervised by Marryetta Watkins local architect and built by Green & Stowe, local contractors. Work on the structure was begun on July 2, days and many nights were spent at work on the interior of the building.

Electrical fixtures were by Jones-Cornett Electirc Co., of Welch and plumbing and heating supplies by the Welch Plumbing and Heating Company. The lumber materials were from the Bright & Davis Lumber Co. of Welch.

Ventilator System

The ventilating and heating system in this building will no double surpass in value any in Welch. During the winter months the building will be kept continuously warm, but the air will never become stuffy, due to the well arranged ventilation.

A large fan several feet in diameter keeps the foul air continuously moving out of every room and corner, while the fresh air comes in all the while.

Now that Welch and McDowell county patrons of the theatre have realized a dream of a fine theatre, let the show begin.!

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