the Pocahontas Theatre
The Pocahontas Theatre Opens
Pocahontas Theatre Opens on Christmas Day and was built at a cost of $100,000 and featured a Wurlitzer pipe organ, valued at $20,000 (which has since been returned to the theatre (see below). Considered the finest theatre and organ in Appalachian Coal Country, the theatre seated 1,264 people and was operated by John W. Blakely. The original newspaper in The Welch News can be found here.
Boomtown in Coaltown, USA
Russell Lee, one of the federal government's most widely traveled photographers is credited for taking this on McDowell Street of the Pocahontas Marquee in downtown Welch and highlights the heyday of a Coal Town during WWII. The movie at the Pocahontas was released in 1942, but the U.S. National Archives has the photo dated in 1946.
The Interior of the Pocahontas
This photo taken in the 1950's (we believe) is one of the few comprehensive interior shots of the original Pocahontas Theatre, that demonstrates the size of the building that was sometimes SOLD OUT for shows..
Movie Memories at the Pocahontas
Many McDowell County Residents fondly remember going to the movies at the Pocahontas. From the red velvet bathroom walls to the smell of popcorn. See some personal wonderful memories of the theatre posted here.
August 23, 1980
Fire at the Pocahontas Theatre
In our own version of a horror movie, the Pocahontas Theatre burned beyond repair on August 23, 1980. The last movie ever shown at 7:30pm on that fateful night was The Shining, a horror movie adapted from a Stephen King book starring Jack Nicholson. It was definitely a scary ending for this incredible part of Welch history.
The Movies Return to Welch
A new movie complex was built at the turn of the millennium. The McDowell 3 Cinema opened in 2003 in Welch. It was operated by Marquee Cinemas, a franchise based in Beckley, WV who operated the cinema until 2021.
Return of the Pocahontas Theatre
Movie attendance during Covid dropped dramatically and once again, Welch was faced losing their movie theatre. However, thanks to the creativity of the City of Welch, Mayor Harold McBride and City Development Specialist, Jason Grubb worked with the Marquee Cinemas who donated $300,000 in equipment and the City of Welch assumed operations of the cinema in 2021. A rebranding campaign was launched, and the Pocahontas Theatre got a sequel. Moreover, the original organ was located and returned to its home in Welch. The Welch News tells more about this economic development strategy by the City of Welch.
The Welch Wurlitzer Organ Returns
A grand theatre organ was installed in the original Pocahontas theatre in 1928 and provided the soundtrack for silent films and live productions. The organ was originally played by W. C. Crookshanks., Wurlitzer Organs were used worldwide and was considered an extravagant addition to the theatre., with massive pipes and a toy chest of drums, symbols and bells! At some point, the organ was no longer used and was sold. However, in 2021 the organ was located in Missouri and was returned home to Welch and the new Pocahontas Theatre to highlight the connection of this celebrated part of CoalTown, USA. While not currently operational, the City has plans to display it in the lobby of the Pocahontas Theatre. Read the full story of returning the Wurlitzer to the Welch.