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Princess Theatre


Other Names:
Klondike (Princess) Cinema
Klondike Cinema
Klondike Theatre
Princess Cinema

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Princess Theatre is a three-storey building situated on a single lot along Whyte Avenue in Edmonton's historic Strathcona district. The building's design is broadly classical and features a symmetrical, marble-faced front façade and a roofline copper cornice surmounted by a parapet with twin gables. Above the second-storey windows are scrollwork sculptural elements reading "19 J. W. McKernan 14".

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Princess Theatre lies in its identity as one of Alberta's pre-eminent historic theatres and its stately architectural style.

The Princess Theatre was constructed in 1914 by John W. McKernan, a member of one of south Edmonton's pioneer families and a highly successful entrepreneur. The building was an audacious undertaking: costing the then princely sum of $75,000 to construct, the theatre featured a seating capacity of 660 and possessed what was purported to be the largest stage in western Canada. The theatre opened in 1915 and offered a program of "high class moving pictures varied occasionally with high class musical vaudeville or musical concerts." Those who preferred more sporting fare could enjoy the billiards parlour in the theatre's basement. Between 1915 and 1940, the Princess Theatre was the only theatre in south Edmonton. It is one of only a handful of early theatres still standing in the province.

The Princess Theatre is one of several substantial Whyte Avenue buildings erected to serve the dual purposes of accommodating commercial activity and visually projecting the social prominence of its builder. The impressive style of the theatre and the scrollwork plaque with McKernan's name above the second-storey windows connect the theatre's elegance and solidity with the person of its builder. Designed by well-known local architects Wilson and Herrald - who also designed several other Whyte Avenue buildings - the Princess Theatre features a strongly classicist sensibility in its symmetry, its marble façade, copper cornice and parapet with twin gables. At the time of its construction, the theatre was the only marble-fronted building west of Winnipeg. The interior continues the classicist theme, with plaster figures and friezes on the ceiling and a series of romantic oil tableaux depicting nymphs and ships. Undoubtedly, this aesthetic helped to shape the identity of the building as a presenter of "high-class" entertainments. With its unique materials and majestic architecture, the Princess Theatre contributes to the rich and distinctive charms of Edmonton's historic Strathcona district.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: DES 0207)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Princess Theatre include such features as:
- Location;
- mass, form, scale and style of the building;
- brick construction and marble facade;
- scrollwork sculptural elements above the second-storey windows, reading "19 J. W. McKernan 14";
- projecting marquee;
- copper-sheeted cornice and parapet with twin gables;
- two parapet gables with roundels featuring ceramic mosaics;
- fenestration pattern and style, including original timber window frames and double-hung six-over-one window sashes;
- mosaic tiling in front of entrance and other doors;
- marble elements in vestibule and lobby;
- arched ceiling adorned with plaster figures and friezes; and
- original decorative pilasters and moulding details within the main theatre space.


Street Address: 10337 - 82 Avenue NW
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Lot 9, Block 61, Plan I
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
8 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.517752 -113.496372 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1995/08/16

Historical Information

Built: 1914 to 1914
Period of Significance: N/A
Theme(s): Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Learning and the Arts
Historic Function(s): Leisure : Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Current Function(s): Leisure : Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Architect: Wilson and Herrald
Builder: Brown and Hargreaves

Built by John W. McKernan in 1914 as a theatre devoted to 'high class' movies, vaudeville and musical concerts at a cost of 75,000 dollars, the Princess Theatre was one of the oldest, '…most complete and beautiful buildings of its kind' in western Canada. It functioned as an important part of early Edmonton's cultural activity. The building was used as a theatre until 1958, when competition with television forced closure. It was renovated and reopened as the Klondike with embellishments that gave the theatre an 1890s flavour. The theatre was designed by Wilson and Herrald and built by Brown and Hargraves, both of Edmonton. It is a three-storey structure with a British Columbia marble facade and copper cornices. The interior was decorated with plaster figures and friezes.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0679
Designation File: DES 0207
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 28838
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 207)
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