Tivoli Theatre

709 Broad Street,
Chattanooga, TN 37402

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agehrt on September 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Hey guys I’m writing my senior thesis on how movies and films affected society, specifically in Chattanooga between 1890 and 1965. I’m going to be using the Tivoli for a heavy portion of the paper, I would love to get as much primary source information as possible about the tivoli and chattanooga theaters in general. I am especially interested in getting in touch with Jarhead who mentioned in a comment that his father was an usher. Anything you guys could do would help tremendously, you can email me at Thanks!

CSWalczak on December 17, 2012 at 8:03 am

Official webpage: http://www.chattanooga.gov/education-arts-and-culture/tivoli-theatre

jarhead1964 on December 17, 2012 at 7:52 am

Hello and i hope someone can help with either photos or some info on the guys who were Ushers at the Tivoli in the late 30’s or the 40’s which my father was and i remember my dad telling me of the uniform he had to wear and the inspections for it was Burgandy and had a lot of brass buttons and he did enjoy it so. He has passed and his name is Vernon K McAllister and any info would be wonderfull. Thank You his son Robert

mdeas19652 on August 21, 2011 at 2:13 am

Anyone have information on how the Tivoli made the stage larger? Did they take out a back wall and move the stage back or did they move forward and lose seating? Any help on details of how they enlarged the stage to accommodate a Symphony is greatly appreciated.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm

The full name of the local associate architect for the Tivoli was Reuben Harrison Hunt.

HenryAldridge on January 6, 2010 at 1:39 am

My understanding is that the organ console was removed in l939 to make more seating space available for showings of Gone With the Wind. The cable was cut and the console put backstage with the pedal board thrown on top. I have a photo of it in this condition which I took in l962 during the period when the theater was closed. Manager Clye Hawkins graciously let me in to take a few pictures.

Bill Barger and friends reattached the cable to the console in l965 so that it could be played for a Barbershop Quartet show. The Chattanooga Times photo shows that there were in fact no stop tabs on the console. I think Bill had to register it with the crescendo pedal.

The console was placed in a niche under the house left box seats and remained there until the console was rebuilt in the l990’s.

Many thanks to the present crew who looks after the instrument.

DavidZornig on April 25, 2009 at 12:14 am

Brief shot of the Tivoli blade on the NBC Nightly News this evening.
A report from a Chattanooga jobs fair by the late Tim Russert’s son Luke.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on July 6, 2008 at 4:24 pm

The enlarged views are a just personal preference for larger photos and you are not missing out on anything.


Don Lewis
Don Lewis on July 4, 2008 at 5:34 pm

A 1986 view of the Tivoli in Chattanooga here, here and here. Enlarged views here, here and here.

acatos on April 4, 2008 at 7:49 pm

The Tivoli Theatre will host a benefit concert for the Hamilton County Rescue Squad on Saturday, April 5, 2008, at 7:30 P.M. The Wurlitzer theatre organ will be played from the time the doors open about 6:30 P.M. until the start of the show, during the intermission, and possibly at the end of the program. The Wurlitzer has been prominently features on posters, in print advertising, and in radio and TV ads promoting the benefit program.

acatos on March 2, 2008 at 3:22 am

The Wurlitzer Theatre organ was again restored in the late 1980’s and is currently maintained by a dedicated volunteer group from Chattanooga, Manchester, Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham. When the team is there, the organ is played, primarily by Nashville organist Everett Hertenstein. After the passing of legendary Chattanooga musician Jon Robere, organist at the Tivoli, the organ was not played publicly until a recent effort by theatre management resulted in the organ being used prior to events at the theatre. The organ is re-emerging into the public consciousness after a long absence. A video of Atlanta organist Ron Carter playing the Tivoli Organ at a Nov 2007 program is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQZxjCKf9-4 .

zxcvbnm on January 18, 2007 at 11:38 pm

The Wurlitzer in the Knoxville Tennessee Theater is played regularly. Dr. Bill Snyder performs an hour long free noon time program on the first Monday of each month that the theater is available (check www.tennesseetheatre.com)) Perhaps someone in the Chattanooga area could play the Tivoli Wurlitzer occasionally, perhaps when routine maintenance is performed. I’m certain people in the Chattanooga area would like to hear the organ played.

Broan on December 26, 2006 at 6:01 pm

Here are pictures of this theater

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 26, 2006 at 12:56 am

This web page about Chattanooga’s Theatres gives a date of 1926 for the installation of the air conditioning plant in the Tivoli Theatre. The orginal source for this information is not cited on the page, but the date certainly fits well with the Historic American Buildings Survey’s claim that the Tivloi may have been one of the first five buildings in the U.S. to have an air conditioning plant. It seems quite possible that this claim was correct and that it was the date given in the HABS report that was an error. It still might be the other way around, of course, but typos and erroneous dates are both much more common in such documents than are extravagantly false claims.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 29, 2006 at 2:29 am

Will, the Historic American Buildings Survey data on the Tivoli goes so far as to say that the theatre was “…reputedly one of the first five public buildings in the United States to be air conditioned.” The claim sounded a bit extravagant to me, which is why I softened it to “…one of the first in the nation….” As the survey was done in 1974, perhaps not much information on the early history of air conditioning in America had yet been compiled. I do know that it was not yet a commonplace feature of public buildings at the time, but it also seemed unlikely that the Tivoli would have had only the fifth plant ever installed in an American public building.

According to this article, the first public building in the U.S. to have a modern air conditioning plant was the J.L. Hudson department store in Detroit, in 1924. I don’t know how rapidly air conditioning spread in the following years, but I do know that it remained a fairly costly luxury until after WWII. As late as the 1950’s, I recall that among the dozen or so theatres in the area where I lived a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, none were yet air conditioned. The nearest air conditioned theatre I knew of was the United Artists in Pasadena.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on March 24, 2006 at 11:14 am

Joe, thanks for the post. The Tivoli is a jewel and Chattanooga is lucky to still have it and have it in such good condition.

I am a little surprised by the comment about air conditioning, not that the Tivoli was retro-fitted in 1931, that sounds about right, but the comment, “and one of the first in the nation.” Many southern “public” buildings had air conditioning. Two of Tennessee’s four surviving movie palaces, (Memphis’s Orpheum and Knoxville’s Tennessee both) opened in October 1928 with mechanical air conditioning. (The Orpheum’s old machinery is still in the basement, too big to remove). I could cite many others.

Forgive me for sounding like an obsessive, that’s not my intention at all. But as they say, the devil is in the details, or is it god is in the details, either way, the utterly unimportant detail is that it might have been Chattanooga’s first airconditioned public building, but certainly not the country’s.

Hope you can come to Knoxville and visit the lovely Tennessee some day. It’d be worth the trip.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 24, 2006 at 9:05 am

The American Memory web site of the Library of Congress contains some information about the Tivoli (click on “Historic Buildings” link under “Architecture, Landscape” heading, then enter “Tivoli Chattanooga” in the search box.)

The site has twelve data pages about the Tivoli from the Historic American Buildings Survey (there are also ten photographs of the theatre.) According to the survey, the architects were C.W. and George L. Rapp, with Chattanooga architect R.H. Hunt associated. The survey also says that the auditorium had a seating capacity at opening of 2,300, and its greatest dimensions were 100'x126'.

The official opening of the Tivoli was March 19, 1921, with the movie “Forbidden Fruit” and Mae Murray, the star of the movie, made a personal appearance. The first talking picture seen in Chattanooga premiered at the Tivoli on July 9, 1928. Chattanooga’s first CinemaScope screen was installed in the Tivoli in 1953. It was 45' wide and 25' high, with a 4' inward curve.

In 1931, the Tivoli became the first public building in Chattanooga (and one of the first in the nation) to install an air conditioning system, a Carrier plant built in Germany that year.

From its opening in 1921 until 1957- almost its entire history as a movie theatre- the manager of the Tivoli was Mr. Emmet Rogers. The Tivoli closed as a movie theatre on August 17, 1961.

On the Tivoli’s Wurlitzer organ, the survey has this to say (the survey dates from 1974):

“The first major addition was that of a new organ in 1924. This Wurlitzer pipe organ was built in 1921 and purchased by a theater in San Diego for $25,000. In 1924 the Tivoli bought it and sent it back to the Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, New York for renovation. It was used in the Tivoli from 1924-1939 when it was shut down. It was removed from the orchestra pit and put backstage…. After 24 years the organ was restored in 1965 by five local members of the Association of Theater Organ Enthusiasts and was put at the left of the stage.”
There is considerably more information about the theatre in the survey, which is available for download from the web site as 12 high resolution compressed TIFF files (viewable in most popular image viewer programs) of about 20 to 40 K each.

JackCoursey on June 24, 2005 at 1:00 am

A couple of 2005 photos of this theatre can be viewed at: View link

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on May 27, 2004 at 3:02 pm

Gary Smith responded privately to my question about the Tivoli’s Wurlitzer organ. He consented to have his note posted here. Thanks Gary.


Didn’t know if anyone has responded to your inquiry about the Tivoli Wurlitzer but here is what I know about;

Opus Number 780, a 3-manual 12-rank 235 Special. A Post Horn rank was added when the theater was remodeled in the late 80’s. The electronics were upgraded at the same time under the technical assistance of theater organist Tom Hazleton to make the organ more user friendly. Although the organ is not used it is still playable and checked about twice a year by Larry Donaldson from Birmingham, AL. who is the crew chief for the wonderful organ at the Alabama Theater. Presently the organ is stored backstage.

I have had the opportunity to play this organ (although not a
professional). It will not blow your socks off with sound but as Tom Hazleton once said when he played that it “fills the room nicely”.

Gary Smith

SASSY on April 14, 2004 at 12:22 am


Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 18, 2004 at 2:12 pm

Additional information on the Tivoli’s Wurlitzer would be appreciated. As I understand it, this is one of only three remaining original installation Wurlitzer theater organs in Tennessee. (The other two being the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville and the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.)

William on December 6, 2003 at 12:49 am

When the Tivoli Theatre was a movie theatre it seated 1781 people.

LyndaMalmberg on January 6, 2002 at 2:42 am

I would like to know the concert seating capacity of the Tivoli Theatre (Chattanooga).