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Princess Theatre - Charleston, SC

Princess Theatre
304 King Street
Opened: November 17, 1913

The Princess Theatre

Originally built in 1898 by Albert Sottile as Riddock's Arcade, with a deluxe soda fountain, this business failed and the site was converted in 1913 into the Princess Theatre. From the beginning, the policy at the Princess Theatre was movies exclusively.

The first program was "three distinguished photoplays which the people of Charleston will find different because of the new mirror screen which has been installed at great expense.

In indicating to the people of Charleston our latest advent in the pursuit of pleasure, we do so with the full conviction that it represents the near ideal we have long strived to obtain."

In 1914, the Princess Theatre introduced a five-piece orchestra to accompany the films and entertain with songs between features. The orchestra was under the direction of Theo Wichmann. They began playing every day at 3:30 p.m. and continued until 6:30 when they stopped to eat supper. At 7:30 the orchestra was back and played until the theatre closed.

When the baseball games of the Charleston Sea Gulls began to cause attendance at the Princess to fall off, the theatre announced that if would offer a "baseball bulletin service."

Southern Furniture Company occupied the space of the former
Princess Theatre from 1936 until 1972.

One could enjoy the movie and still keep up with the scores as the game progressed. The "figures will be thrown upon the mirrorscope, so that all may read, while sitting under the whirling fans.

News and Courier - February 21, 1915

Better Babies Contest

One of the most successful marketing schemes at the Princess Theatre was the "Better Babies" contest. The Civic Club of Charleston had held the contest where pohtographs were taken. These photographs were printed on glass slides and hand tinted.

Leroy's Jewelry store occupied the space from 1972 to 1997.

An announcement in the News and Courier stated, "The management of the Princess received many calls yesterday from patrons who weren't able to attend, requesting that these photographs be shown again tomorrow and accordingly, slides of the babies will be thrown on the picture screen tomorrow."

The Princess Theatre closed around 1927. The space was then occupied by Rubin Electrical Company, then, Carolina Electrical Company, then, Pickett's House of Music. From 1936 to 1972, it was occupied by Southern Furniture Company.

Leroy's Jewelers was in the space from then until 1997, when Jessica and Grant Dees bought it with the intention of opening a small cafe.

During rennovation, they removed the suspended ceiling and discovered the beautiful plasterwork and arched ceiling of the Princess Theatre.

They tripled their budget in order to restore the original architectural features of the old theatre.

Their architect, Reggie Gibson, said many of the cafe's details - pilasters, column capitals, dental work, ceiling trim, morror frames and light fixture moldings - were replicated from at least one original plaster work that still existed inside the building.

The entrance door on King Street was set back twenty feet from the sidewalk just as it had been when it was the Princess Theatre.

They opened the Sonoma Cafe and Wine Bar in 1997. Since then, it was been a succession of restaurants.

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