Save the Saenger

Originally posted in September 2011

Saenger Theater Pine Bluff AR

The 87-year-old Saenger Theater in Pine Bluff, Arkansas needs attention and needs it fast. Fortunately, a group of local supporters have organized and are raising money to stabilize and save the structure for eventual renovation to its former glory.

The long suffering Saenger Theater in Pine Bluff, Arkansas is enjoying renewed attention just in the nick of time. Little Rock video producer Chris Cranford got wind of the aging structure’s plight and put a video together detailing the predicament of the ailing edifice. It worked. The video touched more than a few nerves and stirred up substantial interest in rescuing the building from sure and certain disaster in the absence of attention. Now, more than 1,650 people are signed on to the “Save our Saenger” Facebook page and the Pine Bluff area is dotted with billboards soliciting support.

August 3, 2014 update

The city now owns the Saenger and is taking steps to stabilize it to slow down the forces of nature and age.

The Post Office Lunchery

Click on the picture for old building pix.

See the Saenger’s neighbors

Before we go too much further, may we suggest that you take a look at the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com where this story started.

You’ll see some of the theaters neighboring structures including the venerable old “Post Office Lunchery.” You’ll also get a few opinions on old buildings versus the newer ones. We’ll wait here until you return.

The theater was more than a venue for movies. Vaudeville acts performed there along with other entertainment. It had a classic theater organ which would rumble the foundation. Thousands of attendees got their first taste of film entertainment in the grand old structure. It was the destination for countless “first dates,” and no-doubt was the site of at least hundreds of first stolen kisses.

See more pictures of the Saenger, the Community Theater, and other historic Pine Bluff buildings in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

Exterior decor of Pine Bluff Saenger Theater

This bad boy under the Saenger flag pole has been on the job since November of 1924. Wonder what’s on his mind?

Though the theater has been dark for decades, say the word “Saenger” around Pine Bluff and you’ll probably trigger a recitation of recalled memories. I can remember my jaw dropping and roar of the crowd when Hawkeye and Trapper John dropped the shower curtain on Hot-Lips Houlihan and crew.

Pine Bluff Saenger Theater exterior decor

The arches above the windows on the front of the theater are in good condition and still show the attention to detail that is the hallmark of Saenger Theaters.

 The details you see on the outside of the Saenger give you an idea of the former opulence inside. It was spacious with cathedral class ceilings and well appointed with all of the nooks and crannies reminiscent of an era when tiny little details and ornate decor were the order of the day. If the Saenger supporters have their way, we may yet see this opulence again.

See more pictures of the Saenger, the Community Theater, and other historic Pine Bluff buildings in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

side entrance to Harlow Sanders Cotton Company

You gotta love the “Pointy” doors at the former home of the Harlow Sanders Cotton Company in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Just a couple of blocks away is the building which last housed the Harlow Sanders Cotton Company. I’m not sure what it was before it was the cotton company, but no doubt will hear from someone and can add that information when it comes in. The building has three “pointy” doors (for lack of a better word), this one is on the side, the other two are on the front.

Back entrance to the Henry Marx Company building

This has to be the fanciest back door in town. The building was last used commercially by the Henry Marx Company of Pine Bluff, the building owner. It now is home to a downtown church.

 You don’t find many windows like the ones you see in the upper floor of the Henry Marx Company building at West 5th Avenue and Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.The designer apparently wanted to achieve a unique look which probably gave a window maker fits as compared to a garden variety window with only two panes. Fits or not, the designer and the window maker were successful. Now there’s that little bit of art in our downtown. Just look up to see it.

Henry Marx Company bulding

The windows have a unique design. Wonder why the one on the right side of the sign is different? What were they thinking? Did the window maker pull a fast one?

art deco doors

Click on the doors for more pictues

SEE MORE pictures including

the Saenger, the Community Theater, and several other historic structures in downtown Pine Bluff, including the old Post Office Lunchery, in our Weekly Grist Gallery.

You’ll see some close up details most folks overlook. There are 31 new pictures of old stuff, some with lingering opportunities. Click and see.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


9 Responses

  1. The deterioration (and even loss) of old theaters is sad. They, as well as other public buildings built in that era, share a quality and elegance that we don’t see any more. Let’s face it – who doesn’t enjoy a renovated old building! The art alone is something.

    Now I know that life goes on and things come and go, but classy is timeless and our neglect is shameful.

  2. “but classy is timeless and our neglect is shameful.” You got that right Bubba!

  3. My friend Cecil Sutely of Arkadelphia, Arkansas and a former professor sent me this message “Joe, you piqued my interest in the Saenger name for theatres, as I remember there were many movies shows with that name in my youth. In my brief Internet research this morning I learned that Abe and Julian Saenger had a drug store in Shreveport when they decided to go in the theatre business in 1912. They formed a corporation under their name, and at their peak about 1927 they had 320 theatres in 12 Southern states, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica. Their headquarters have been in New Orleans since 1919. ~ ~ Cecil”

  4. I’m playing “catch up” after having been away for a few days and also playing “window peeper”. Am I correct that we can see Christmas decorations in storage in #28 of 31 in you gallery of windows and doors? Looks like Rudolph! Good stuff!

  5. Weezer, that;s exactly what it looks like to me as well.

  6. […] week, we are sending you to our original Saenger post to peruse the old house of entertainment — and a few of  it’s remarkable neighbors. You […]

  7. Hello Joe,

    I enjoyed your photos of crumbly old buildings in Pine Bluff. Old single screen movie theaters in small towns have a lot of value, and can be restored like the Rialto in El Dorado. It seems that rehab into community theater operations (in liaison with high school drama clubs) is a good way to transition them into community assets. Many of the multi-screen theaters that my firm was designing as recently as 2006
    have now shed their large reel-fed projectors and are all going to digital, satellite source operations. Wanna buy a state-of-the-art German projector from that time frame? Technology marches on, and we have to be careful in making decisions about architectural reuse. So many of the details you show display wonderful craftsmanship that simply is no more to be found. Cheers – Clark

  8. […] of interesting old buildings, some of which if not attended to are not long for this world. Click here to see our original September 4, 2011 post. Also see the Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page […]

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