Take a quick jump within this documentation? (Use your browser Back hey to return.)
Theatre Modifications, Chandeliers, House Lighting, Wurltizer Organ, Marble, Murals, Balcony, Central Vacuum, The Spring, The Fan, Byrd Cut-a-way View
The Byrd has never been re-modeled. However, some modifications have been made over the years. Originally there were 5 proscenium arches in the front of the house each was smaller the closer it was to the screen. The original screen was only about 20'w x 15'h and mounted close to the back wall. In 1953 a Cinemascope screen was installed in front of the stage covering the two on stage doors and most of the useful stage leaving only two and part of the third arch visible. In 1989 the inner two arches and original Cinemascope screen were removed. A new screen was flown above the stage with an electric motor to raise and lower it as needed. Three arches are now visible with the curtain hung in the third. In addition to these modifications the orchestra pit was uncovered and painted for the first time in more than 60 years. The house has only been cleaned and repaired as needed. The outside marquee has been replaced twice since 1928. (marquees tend to rust out)
The small chandeliers at the top of the side boxes have 8 full size bulbs inside each one and are between 3' and 4' tall. Most everything inside the Byrd is BIG even though it may not appear that way. The 2 chandeliers in the alcoves are about 7' tall and the main chandelier is 18' tall! When lowered for cleaning and the crystal ball on the bottom is at the level of the seats the top of the chandelier is well above the balcony rail. It was constructed on site because it would not fit through any outside door including the stage scenery door. All of the of the house chandeliers have 4 light circuits, red, blue, amber, and green (the green in only lamped in the center chandelier at this time.) The dome that holds the main chandelier is recessed about 8' feet up into the ceiling. The main lobby chandelier is over 8' high with clear white bulbs only.
All of the house and stage lights are on dimmers located on the third floor below the dimmer control board in the projection booth.(4th floor) This 10' wide 7' high one scene dimmer board can be remotely controlled from the first floor and is original equipment from 1928. There are 10 dimmers for each color and they can be tied to a master electrical and/or mechanical color bus for full house and stage color coordination.
The Wurlitzer organ is located in 4 rooms on the 4th floor over the stage, the 2 alcoves in the house, a vacuum blower for the piano in the basement, an elevator room in the basement, and the console pit in the center of the orchestra pit. If one sits facing the stage, 2 floors up behind the piano is the relay room that holds a mechanical/pneumatic computer. This device helps the organist select the actual pipes or other devices used to produce sound when a key is pressed at the console. The next 2 rooms directly over the stage contain the organ pipe work, drums, bells, horns, and many other effects - all these devices are real not electronic. The front walls of these 2 rooms look like giant vertical blinds that open and close. Each slat is about a foot wide and when open the edge is about 5" thick made of over-lapping boards. These shutters are used to control the sound level of the organ heard in the auditorium. The pipes always play at full level - very loud. There is also a sound shoot about 40' wide, 8' high, and about 12' long that carries the sound into the house from the 4th floor. The room up behind the harp contains a 15hp high pressure blower, DC generator or power supply, several tremulants, and a small workshop. Under the piano, in the left alcove, is a master xylophone.(about 6' long) Under the real Lyon & Healy harp, in the right alcove, is a marimba or wood harp that is played from the console. The harp on top is just for decoration.
The Turkish and Italian marble found thoughtout the building was sliced in 1/2" thick sections of various sizes ordered, from Europe, to fit each wall section. In the lobby there are several places where 4 large slices are mounted such that they look like a kaleidoscope image with a center design where the 4 pieces meet. This means that 2 pieces are polished on one side and the other 2 are polished on the other. Then they are mounted two up, two down, with two flipped over. A good example of this can be seen across from the water fountain on the west side of the lobby. In the house the same designs run down the side walls for more than 50 feet through many pieces. One must realize that these pieces are sliced from rock like you would slice butter then matched up.
The murals in the lobby and the cameos in the house are painted oil on canvas and are of Greek Mythology. The murals in the lobby and the cameos in the house are hand painted and have Greek Mythology themes. These same figures are found in many old Greek and Italian theatres today.
Unique in 1928 was the cantilevered balcony. If you sit on the back row of the orchestra level you may notice there are no supports holding up the front of the balcony or blocking you view. This is very unusual and is accomplished by a cantilever design with the front balcony weight resting on the back orchestra wall. This is being held in place by the 2 top floors of the front of the building. The design also follows the SOUND design practice of 1:1.5, for every 15' back under a balcony you must have 10' of height. This keeps the sound levels reasonable under the balcony. The Byrd is an excellent music hall with the shape of the balcony also acting as a large sound wedge that greatly reduces the front to back echo. Every seat has good sound.
The Byrd was built in 1928 with a central vacuum system having a total of 12 inlets covering all seating levels and lobbies.
There is a spring in the basement of the Byrd. In the past it supplied water to the air conditioner cooling tower and the front outside of the building? This spring is in a holding room about 25' x 25' two levels below the front center seating section and is pumped down by two sump pumps when needed. There used to be 4 to 6 feet of water in the room however, when the parking deck behind the building were built in 1994 the level dropped about 2'. This spring was in use the day the theatre opened in 1928. A few years ago after Hurricane Isabel caused a week long power failure, there was flooding by the spring. We had to bring in a generator and large pump to save the the furnace and other equipment in the basements. If the building was built water tight it would rise up and float like a concrete barge - or split open in the center of the floor because there is no weight resting on the floor between the walls as in a home or office building. The roof is built like an 80' end supporting bridge spanning the seating area.
The house fan used to distribute the warm or cool air is large enough to stand in and is driven by a 25 horse power motor using an 8" wide belt more than 40' long. The air is filtered by 2 slow moving roll filters that look like two 5' wide movies moving through projectors placed next to each other.
Cutaway View

Return to top of page     Return to Byrd home page