From: Buddy Boyd, Feb. 2004
BLAZE AT MIDNIGHT DAMAGES PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Cause of Blaze is Undetermined Today; Three Were in House
With stage furnishings, sound equipment and piano gone and considerable
damage done seats and rugs, the Paramount Theatre was closed today following
a fire at 12:15 a.m.
The ruin of tangled wire, charred hangings, broken display letters and
fallen curtain supports remained, all that was left of the city's largest
theatrical stage, though damage to the house itself was slight, and confined
to seats on which scattered sparks had started smoldering fires. Fallen
plaster and damage to the organ was expected to swell the loss today, all of
which was said to have been covered by insurance.
Three colored persons, Ed Wilson, Willie Newman and Julia Jackson, cleaners,
were in the theatre at midnight when smoke was first noticed there. As one
of these ran to telephone the fire department, the blaze burst forth in the
drapes on the stage. Before the arrival of firemen this hanging had fallen
to the floor in flames, igniting the organ, parts of the flooring and the
Spectators who arrived before water had been turned on were met by dense
clouds of acrid smoke from the burning hangings. With fuses gone, lights
could not be furnished the firelighters.
It was at this time that patches of plaster, loosened by extreme heat in the
building, fell with a clatter on seats and in the aisles, while firemen
darted about in the murk unable to see above them.
A few moments after second-story exit doors had been opened, releasing smoke
from the building, the first illumination was obtained. This was furnished
by lurid red floodlights, which picked out firemen in strained postures
waiting with hose in hand for water to be turned on.
Flames which came from beneath the theatre's Wurlitzer were attacked from
the fifth row of seats with one stream of water. Meanwhile, another hose
poured a steady deluge into the blaze from the stage.
Word that fire had been discovered in the downtown section spread in the
district, and many persons arrived on the run, hatless, without coats, and
rubbing sleep from their eyes. University students, saddened at seeing a
favorite amusement place in danger of destruction, lined Third Street or
attempted to gain entrance through the front doors in spite of the smoke.
The affair was not without its humorous incident. With keys furnished by
Marsh Gollner, manager of the place, side doors were opened to release smoke
which still filled the lower part of the building. Behind one of these Fire
Chief Page was found crouched close to the floor. Though loudly protesting,
he was immediately hauled forth onto the pavement by excited comrades who
thought he had been overcome by smoke.
Policemen finally cleared the building of persons standing about with wet
handkerchiefs to their faces, and the firefighting went on at a less
feverish tempo when all danger to other equipment was seen to be slight.
Scheduled for appearance on the ruined stage today were "Alexander's Variety
Wonders," acrobats who have visited the city before.
Officials of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs announced today the
donation by Weldon Wade, of the Harry Miller Theatrical Company in New York,
of complete furnishings for the theatre which were shipped here to be used
in the production of the Charity Frolics which this organization is
Fire insurance adjusters were at work on the estimates of damage late last
night and this morning.
- Charlottesville Daily Progress
January 19, 1934
Now for the rest of the story.
The theatre was interested enough to replace the console. The story goes
that the Kimball Company's bid beat the Wurlitzer Company in price and
delivery date. So the console on the organ was built for this organ and not
something that was stuck on the organ. It has all the features Wurlitzer
would of had along with some of the things Kimball did with their consoles.