86 E. 8th Street,
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The Knickerbocker was built, along with much of the rest of the surrounding block, for Tieman Slagh, who wanted to bring vaudeville to Holland. His theater was named for a popular early 20th century New York City playhouse.
Construction began in 1910, after four earlier attempts by Slagh to get a construction permit were rebuffed by the city fathers.
Slagh himself was killed before the Knickerbocker Theatre opened—as he was putting lightbulbs in the marquee, he fell off a ladder and broke his neck.
A new owner was eventually found, and the theater opened in 1911 as a vaudeville house, though it soon began to screen movies as well.
By 1941 the Knickerbocker Theatre received a new name, the Holland Theatre, which it was known as for much of its time as a movie house. It was operated by the Butterfield Theaters chain.
In the 1960’s, the Holland Theatre received a well-meaning modernization, which covered up its Neo-Classical style facade and much of its interior decor.
In 1988, the theater was purchased by Hope College. Two years later, the theater received a renovation, including the removal of several rows of seats to make more legroom, an updated lobby, with a new concession stand and larger restrooms, new lighting, heating, air-conditioning, and projection and sound equipment. The old facade was uncovered and restored to its original appearance. At the time of the renovation, the theater’s original name was also brought back after decades.
The college uses the Knickerbocker Theatre for concerts, poetry readings, and live performances, as well as for screening art and foreign films.
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