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The Grand Lady of the Ballroom 333′ Below

A Priceless Chandelier Hanging in a Tennessee Cave

Every cavern boasts unique qualities not found in any other cave, but Cumberland Caverns took it to another level when a stunning 8’.6”x15’, 1500lb chandelier was raised 60’ high to light the Volcano Room inside the cave in 1982.

The grand lady of the ballroom was acquired from the Loew’s Metropolitan Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. She had been rescued by Roy Davis, Cumberland Caverns founder, who was at the location to purchase a massive pipe organ during one of the theater’s final renovations in the early 1980s. The workers hired to renovate the building had intended on cutting the cable and let the beautiful antique hit the floor. Upon hearing of their plans, Mr. Davis offered to take the chandelier along with the organ, and the manager agreed to include it in their deal. Mr. Davis walked away with what would become an iconic fixture in the cave, along with a vintage pipe organ, for a mere one thousand dollars.

The Grand Lady hanging in her original home at the Loew’s Metropolitan Theater in Brooklyn, NY

The chandelier hung at the original location in NY for over 50 years and witnessed the evolution of film from the time the theater opened on September 15, 1918, until its purchase in the early ’80s. During that time, the chandelier accumulated a lot of smoke, dust, grease, and grime. How do you clean a chandelier? Well, according to Roy Davis, you spray it off at the local carwash and end up chasing beads all around the parking lot. You can’t help but laugh at the thought of that scenario.

Photo courtesy of Davila Photography
The Grand Lady of the Ballroom has delighted millions of guests over the years and is one of the most photographed features of Cumberland Caverns

After the chandelier was in place inside the cave for a year, employees noticed beads accumulating on the floor below. Upon closer inspection, it was learned the wires holding the beads in place were rusting in two. The Grand Lady had to be removed and underwent a complete restringing of the metal wires to copper line. This process was done over a two-year period with friends gathering on weekends for dinner stringing parties. She now has a solid foundation that will last for years to come.

And that is the tale of how a beautiful, priceless crystal chandelier from Brooklyn, New York came to call a cave in Middle Tennessee home.

On a side note, the Loew’s Metropolitan Theater underwent a massive restoration from 2000-2002 and is now the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.

 

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