stars, Grand Ole Opry performers and silent motion pictures
to talkies and the rock and roll of Elvis Presley to todays
diversely programmed Civic Center, The Coliseum Theatre in downtown
Corinth has witnessed the changing stage of the entertainment
and built in 1923-1924 by Benjamin Franklin Liddon, the 999-seat
palatial creation was built for $60,000. To keep costs down,
Mr. Liddon planned the seating capacity to one less than 1,000,
the point at which movie royalties rose. The estimated replacement
value in 1981 when the property was deeded to Alcorn County
was $3 million. A former resident of the area, Herbert Welch
purchased the coliseum from the Liddon family in 1977. He ran
the theatre unsuccessfully for about one year and then put it
up for sale when progress and competition in the form of a new
twin cinema came to town. The Coliseum had been closed for a
number of years ,a buyer could not be found and decay was fast
approaching when Herbert Welch donated the property to Alcorn
County in 1981. The Corinth Area Arts Council, Inc. Board of
Directors were designated as managers and restorers of the property.
from death by neglect and the elements, the Coliseum became
the first focal point for downtown revitalization. It was soon
accepted to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Approximately $500,000 has been spent over the years to restore
and furnish the property. The funding has come mostly from local
private donations, fund-raisers,several foundations including
The Kimberly-Clark Fundation; Caterpillar Foundation; Benjamin
and Corinne Pierce Charitable Foundation; the Coca-Cola Benwood
Foundation; and C.A.R.E ; Certified Local Government grants
from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Mississippi
Arts Commission, Corinth Area Tourism and recently Alcorn County.
Associates, Architects, in business in Corinth in the 1980s,
assisted in restoration planning with a small grant and many
volunteer hours. Restorers, working tediously on authentic detail
and took no shortcuts on time or expense especially in the areas
of ornate plaster replacement, roof and lobby restoration. Long-range
plans were made for a complete civic center to include adding
a 500-seat capacity meeting/banquet room facility in the adjacent
courtyard. Funding has never been available for this addition.
walls in soft pinks and blues were repainted with the traditional
colors of the early movie era. The pastel shades were thought
to create an air of fantasy and set the mood for entertainment
and pink was Mrs. Liddons favorite color. Restorers took
only slight liberties in using two additional contrasting shades
of pink and mauve to show off the beautiful gold plaster friezes
which Mr. Liddon purchased from a Chicago firm. Important architectural
features include lobby wainscoting and grand staircase made
from Italian white marble. The hardwood stage was designed by
a New York Company and, when needed, a trap door to the cellar
provides a fast exit for performers. Various widths of molding
and friezes in classical Greek designs are featured in the auditorium
with ornate gold plaster medallions and grills on the ceiling
to complement ornate cornice designs. Stairwells are adorned
with mandolin and music designs of applied plaster and gold
bombe molding gives equal splendor to the fronts of the mezzanine
and balcony seating areas. Four circular leaded, stained glass
lights, edged in plaster molding on the mezzanine and balcony
levels give the appearance of skylights. A much larger light
of the same design provides incandescent light to the auditorium.
Original brass fixtures and hardware can be found in the lobby,
ticket booth and other areas.
which contains more than a million brick, was first cooled by
two huge fans, the largest was 108 inches in diameter. After
sound came to the movies, a water cooling system replaced the
noisy fans in 1932 and used water from a nearby artesian well.
This apparatus designed by Mr. Liddon was Corinths first
air-conditioning system. Another feature which put Corinth ahead
of its time was a floor vacuum system also designed by the owner.
A large oil drum in the cellar was the canister to receive the
debris and connected to a vacuum motor. Long hoses were connected
to outlets around the building for fast cleaning
and newcomers to Corinth are always in awe when first viewing
the grand Coliseum and express surprise over the beautiful music
hall in Northeast Mississippi.
over the past thirty years have included: prestigious artists
such as the Washington Ballet; The Norman Luboff Choir; Ballet
Mexico de Folklorico ; the presentation of Corinth and Alcorn
Countys Sixteen National Historic Landmarks by then U.
S. Secretary of the Interior,Manuel Lujan; concerts by the Corinth
Symphony Orchestra which uses the facility as home base; large
productions by Corinth Theatre/Arts; various traveling educational
programs for students; school performances/meetings by Alcorn
County Schools; various church meetings and revivals; Gospel
Singings; various fund-raiser programs for civic groups; small
conventions and meetings; beauty revues for schools and the
preliminary revues for Miss Mississippi and Miss Hospitality;
dancing recitals; blue grass concerts; and various for-profit
performances including rock shows, magician performances, circus
performances and other programs. The lobby is a favorite location
for meetings, wedding and other receptions.
was presented the 1991 Governors Award in the Arts Design
of Public Space Award, a State recognition. Also, in 1991
the Arts Council received the Historic Theatre Preservation
Award from the League of American Theatres at their annual convention
in San Francisco. This award is one of three preservation awards
presented in the U.S. and Canada annually. The property had
been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980
and was later designated a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.