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Key Number: HS 28838
Site Name: Klondike Cinema
Other Names: Princess Theatre
Site Type: 0204 - Social and Recreational: Theatre or Cinema

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4


Address: 10335-10337 - 82 Avenue
Number: 35-37
Street: 103
Avenue: 82
Other:
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style:
Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 3
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Brick
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Flat
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Marble from British Columbia faced the theatre, ceramic mosaics adorned twin gables in the parapet above a copper cornice, and a large transom above the main entrances featured a stained glass window.
It has a white marble facade, copper cornice, rectangular windows with protruding lintels and topped by a parapet with gaudet style features.
Interior: Plaster Frieze, vestibule and lobby finished in marble and tile. Ceiling of the theatre was arched and adorned with plaster figures and friezes. The interior is embelished with plaster friezes and a tableau in oils of nymphs and ships.
Environment: Neighbourhood: CPR West Old Strathcona preservation area The Klondike Cinema (Princess Theatre), is of local importance serving as a centre of cultural activity and a significant landmark in the South Edmonton business district. The Klondike Cinema is surrounded by buildings of a similar age and its present use is compatable with both its original function and with the function of the local area as a whole.
Condition: Good. Due to restorations and renovations of 1971 the building is in an excellent state of repair and appears much as it did in 1914.
Alterations: 1971 Renovated new mechanical and electrical systems

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Built
1914/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Theatre
Closed
Reopened as theatre
1914/01/01
1958/01/01
1971/01/01
Owner: Owner Date:
John W. McKernan
Klondike Towne Cinema
Old Strathcona Foundation
1914/01/01
1958/01/01
1976/07/14
Architect: Wilson & Herrald
Builder: Brown and Hargraves
Craftsman: N/A
History: 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.
The Princess Theatre was one of the '...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 its closure. It was reopened as the Klondike by Towne Cinema Ltd., in 1971. The renovations restored many of the original decorative embellishments and gave the theatre an 1890's flavour. The theatre was designed by Wilson and Herrald, built by Brown and Hargraves both of Edmonton. It was a three storey structure with a British Columbia marble facade and copper cornices. The interior was decorated with plaster figures and friezes.
Insurance map of 1913 shows Cinema under constructon in August 1914 Billiards room in basement 1978 - Leased by Old Strathcona Foundation and named changed from Klondyke Theatre back to Princess Theatre Present Owner - Towne Cinema Theatres ltd.
Registered Historic Site Owner: May Theatres 118 Avenue 124 Street 1894 January 11 Owner: Nanton and Munson 1971 May 4 Owner: Towne Cinema Theatre Limited

*****
One of the last major buildings to be completed from the pre-war boom. First marble fronted theatre between Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Associated with significant early Strathcona family and pioneer movie houses such as the Bijou in South Edmonton.

***
The Princess Theatre was built in 1914 by John W. McKernan a member of one of the oldest pioneer families in the Edmonton area. Mr. McKernan was born in Hay Lakes and when he was six months old his parents moved to Strathcona. He farmed in the area for some time and later became engaged in building and real estate. John McKernan died on February 18, 1919.
The Theatre is three storeys in height with a full basement. The ground floor contained the movie theatre with a capacity of 660 patrons while the third floor was devoted to suites and offices. The front facade is entirely of marble and was the only marble front building west of Winnipeg. The entrance was particularly striking with a vestibule and lobby finshed in marble and tile. The architects were Wilson and Herrald and the building contractors were Brown and Hargraves. Construction was from materials almost entirely manufactured in Edmonton. The marble was imported from a B.C. quarry.
Currently known as the Klondike Cinema the theatre was completely renovated in 1970. Much of the original decor has been retained and the interior is very attractive. Mechanical and electrical systems are new. Generally the building is in excellent condition.

***
The Princess Cinema was designed by the local architectural firm of Wilson and Herrald for John McKernan, son of Robert McKernan, builder of the Dominion Hotel. When it opened in 1915, the Princess had the largest stage in Western Canada, and promised a program of 'high class moving pictures varied occasionally with high class musical vaudeville or musical concerts'. In addition to the cinema, which occupied the first two floors, there was a billiards room in the basement, and offices on the third floor. The Princess cost $75,000 to construct and was considered one of the 'most complete and beautiful buildings of its kind in Western Canada'.
A large portion of the budget must have been expended on the decoration of the building. Rich materials were used to finish the exterior: marble from British Columbia faced the theatre, ceramic mosaics adorned twin gables in the parapet above a copper cornice, and a large transom above the main entrances featured a stained glass window. Inside, the ceiling of the theatre was arched and adorned with plaster figures and friezes.
The Princess was the only theatre in South Edmonton until 1940, when two new cinemas opened on 109 Street: the Varscona (built by the McKernan family, now demolished) at 82nd Avenue and the Garneau at 87 Avenue. The Princess continued to operate as a theatre until 1958, after which the building housed various retail outlets. In 1973 it was returned to its original use and was designated a Registered Historic Resource in 1976. Renovations ensued, and the Princess is now operated as a repertory cinema by the Old Strathcona Foundation.
The Princess Theatre is a significant landmark in the historic old Strathcona District of Edmonton and is an excellent example of one of few remaining early theatres in Alberta.

* * *
The first marble-fronted building west of Winnipeg, the Princess Cinema opened on 8 March 1915. It was built by J.W. McKernan, a pioneer in the South Edmonton area, who used only locally produced materials - except for the marble, which was imported from British Columbia. Following an inaugural programme of patriotic films, the first commercial showing was 'The Eagle's Mate' starring Mary Pickford. The theatre was closed in 1958, but it was restored, renamed the Klondike, and re-opened in 1971.
The Princess Cinema was designated a Registered Historic Site on 14 July 1976, in recognition of the elegance of its architecture, and the enduring place of the cinematograph in the cultural life of Alberta.

* * *
PRINCESS THEATRE (1914) First South Side Theatre
The Grand old dame of silent films and vaudeville flourishes with class and profitability once again, thanks to the efforts of the Old Strathcona Foundation.
As well, the historic and quaint facade of the Princess Theatre has become a flagship of sorts - an integral part of the revived Old Strathcona business district.
The Princess was built by John McKernan in 1914 for $75,000. It incorporated the first marbled front of any building west of Winnipeg.
It has approximately 4,000 square feet on the main floor, and 420 seats, though in once had 600.
The Princess is a visual treat with its white marble facade with copper cornices and parapet. There is an arched and sculpted ceiling with ornate plaster frieze work in rust and white, as well as a rebuilt balcony in the theatre. Marine cherubs dance in sublime embrace above the screen. The lobby is elegant with red carpeting, oaken doors, and a large crystal chandelier.
The theatre was designed by the architectural firm of Wilson and Herrald, and constructed by contractors Brown and Hargraves, both Edmonton firms. It has a third floor of rooms no longer in use, and a full basement, once home to Spike's Poolroom and a barber shop. It was the only south side theatre until the Garneau opened in 1939.
'So elaborate has been the nature of the theatre finish and decoration that the work took three months more time than scheduled', The Edmonton Journal reported in 1915, while its competitor The Bulletin said the building 'shows a particular advantage with its mass of solid marble and copper cornices and the high standard of material and workmanship is carried over into every corner of the building.'
While the first private opening reception featured tub-thumping First World War films, the first commercial showing was 'The Eagle's Mate', starring Mary Pickford. Advertising promised 'the main program of enterainment will be high-class moving pictures varied occasionally with high-class vaudeville or unusual concerts.' Pianists or three-piece bands would accompany the silent films.
The first talkie movie feature was 'The Canary Murder Case' around 1930. Television competition is said to have helped close the Princess in 1958 and it was used as a shoe store and sewing machine shop.
The building was purchased by Towne Cinemas in 1970 and given a $270,000 facelift to reopen as the Klondike. But the Klondike struggled and the Old Strathcona foundation stepped in. Since 1980, the Princess has succeeded under a bill of fare temed 'classic and repertoire' film. The theatre generates traffic of 125,000 patrons annually into Old Strathcona while the Princess Theatre Club has 5,000 members at $10 each per year.
The building was repainted and replastered in 1982 for $15,000.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active
Active
1978/02/19
1993/09/28
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

1995/05/02
Register: A17
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/06/09

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0679
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