Description of Alhambra Theater Which Opens Tonight
Ogden Standard Examiner, 17 March 1915, page 7
One of the Largest, Most Beautiful Moving Picture Houses in the World – Fireproof and Provided With the Latest Mechanical Devices to Prevent Smoke Causing Panic – Decorative Work Most Artistic – Heating and Ventilating Are by New Method.
The new Alhambra theatre on Hudson avenue was used last night for the first time, the occasion being a rehearsal of the Ogden Tabernacle choir for the big concert tonight, which will formally open the playhouse to the public. The rehearsal was mainly for the purpose of getting the singers used to the seating arrangement, which had been specially made for them, and to try out the acoustics. Five of the choruses which will be sung tonight were rehearsed and drew applause from the house attaches seated in every part of the auditorium.
Another rehearsal was held at noon today with the enlarged American theatre orchestra, which is to accompany the choir in its program and also to be heard in special numbers. Yesterday afternoon the acoustic properties of the building were tried out in every possible way by the Kimball organ experts and declared to be equal to those of any theatre or concert hall in America, not even excepting the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Several hundred prominent local citizens and visitors from outside cities and states have inspected the theatre during the past week and the verdict of nearly everyone who has traveled in the east, is that the new Alhambra should have been built for New York City, both from a standpoint of accommodations and luxuriousness of design and equipment. These and similarly expressed opinions have brought the reply from the owners of the photoplay palace, that nothing is too good for Ogden, that it is well to see the standard high and in that way develop the appreciation of beautiful in architecture which is so essential for civic growth and development along successful lines.
The average citizen, perhaps, little appreciates the tremendous advertising value that a building like the Alhambra theatre represents to a community. It will be published, talked of and read about from one end of the country to the other, and this will prove to be very desirable publicity for Ogden. It is also gratifying to know that our local architecture can be favorably compared with the best in the country and that it was not necessary to go outside of Ogden to have this very important part of the building operation handled.
The entire front of the theatre is built of polychrome terra cotta and designed in the Sullivanesque style of architecture. In employing this type of design an architect has to ignore the conventions that have been so closely followed by the majority of architects and create something different. The ornamental work and beautifully moulded courses that embellish the massive terra cotta front and lobby walls are obtained by magnifying and photographing frozen water crystals with their myriad of fantastic shapes and outlines and these furnish the inspiration for the beautiful lace-like figure work that enriches the exterior of the building. A steel marquise, with art glass and studded with electric lights, extends across the sidewalk over the entrance and an animated electric sign will later grace the large panel in the front of the building.
At the entrance of the lobby, with the ticket office on the right, and illuminated bulletin board on the left, there is a battery of heavy plate glass oak doors, surrounded by soft cream colored terra cotta walls containing large bevel mirrors and flaming torchlight brackets on the plaster places. The coffered ceiling, with frosted electric bulbs in the rosettes, is treated in old ivory and gold and the frieze contains a beautiful mural painting in oil colors which is thrown into high relief by the concealed continuous cove lighting beneath. This painting represents the queen of music and her cupids.
A beautiful tile floor extends over the entire lobby and foyer with the title name “Alhambra Theatre” in colored tile at the very entrance. The foyer separates the lobby from the main auditorium and contains the balcony stair approaches and the ladies and gentlemen's retiring rooms are entered from the two extreme wings of the foyer.
Upon entering the main auditorium, one advances to a point just beyond the balcony-overhang before the scene unfolds itself, with its vast and magnificent treatment and the massive proscenium opening, flanked on either side by the gilded organ pipes and continuing into ornamental wall panels treated in silk tapestry in old rose.
The main decorative feature of the interior, which has created much comment, is the lofty art ceiling with its enormous cornice overhang support on gigantic brackets and capitals and carried down to the base above the floor line on fluted pilasters. The main ceiling is carried across with a heavy ornamental bean effect with rich coffers intersecting between. From the center of each coffer, as well as from each beam intersection, hangs and indirect light fixture, containing light globes backed by powerful reflectors. These fixtures prevent the direct glare of the light and bring out the beautiful color effects of French grey, old ivory and blue and gold of the ceiling.
The ceiling cove, just above the massive cornice, is lighted by a continuous line of concealed lights extending all around the building. The cornice overhanging coffers are lighted with small indirect fixtures which give the effect from below that this part of the building is literally floating in space. Over the proscenium arch, which is surmounted by a cartouche containing a gilded cupid with a trumpet, are four large panels containing mural paintings in oil. The paintings from left to right represent song, drama, dance and music and the color schemes employed, while rich, are subdued and harmonize with the general color scheme throughout the building.
One feature of the building is the operating booth, concealed in the balcony front with seats extending overhead, thus giving an unobstructed sight line from all parts of the house.
The stage in size and equipment is ample to handle the largest road shows and, besides having a large elevator for disappearing acts and an extensive marble switchboard, where all lights in the building may be controlled, provision has been made against fire and panic by a large bronze skylight ventilator which opens automatically by means of cables in case of scenery catching fire. When the large asbestos curtain is dropped, all smoke is drawn through the roof ventilator without the audience being aware of its presence. The same precautions have been taken in the operating booth, which is fire proof, but may be filled with smoke by a burning film. In this event, all the projection openings in the balcony front are immediately closed with steel curtains so as to eliminate the possibility of smoke being carried into the auditorium, but instead, is drawn off through ventilating ducts with absolutely no chance of creating excitement, so that with the building fireproof, and panic proof, with ample and convenient means of exit in case of emergency or otherwise, it represents practically the last word in safe theatrical construction.
The dressing room section occupies space under the stage, and, in this part of the building are the extensive heating and ventilating system and electrical power switch boards. The air is taken into the building at a point high up where it is purer and freer from dust, and drawn down through an enormous steel duct into the basement where it is washed by sprays of water and given the proper degree of humidity. It is then drawn through great stacks of steam heating coils, and, after reaching the right temperature, is forced by a mammoth 25-horsepower electric fan into the plenum floors and circulates from there into the theatre proper, through the metal mushroom ventilators under the seats. The foul air is exhausted through the ceiling registers and the temperature automatically controlled by a delicate system of thermostats connecting with the various dampers and inlet valves. In summer the temperature inside will be made from 12 to 15 degrees cooler than on the sidewalk. This is accomplished by cooling the incoming air with sprays of water.
The mezzanine floor contains the manager’s offices and a suite of offices for rental, besides the operating booth, locker room and retiring rooms. The front basement is designed for a commodious rathskeller with modern appointments, while on each side of the main entrance are attractive shops which are already being occupied.
The owners of the new Alhambra theatre, Albert Scowcroft, Charles Zeimer and H. A. Sims, have indicated their confidence in Ogden in the most emphatic way possible by investing a vast sum of money to attain this splendid building.
The building was designed and superintended by Shreeve & Madsen, and erected by William A. Larkins. The materials that have been used in its construction have been assembled from the four corners of the United States, with local materials used wherever possible. The plans were finished in June 1914, the contracts let in July, and it has taken approximately seven and a half months to erect the building, this time including nearly two months of delay while waiting for the arrival of the structural steel.