Comments from JimJacobsen

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JimJacobsen commented about Englert Theatre on Aug 6, 2007 at 6:35 am

George Rapp himself stated the firm’s design philosophy:
“Watch the eyes of a child as it enters the portals of our great theatres and treads the pathway into fairyland. Watch the bright light in the eyes of the tired shopgirl who hurries noiselessly over carpets and sighs with satisfaction as she walks amid furnishings that once delighted the hearts of queens. See the toil-worn father whose dreams have never come true, and look inside his heart as he finds strength and rest within the theatre. There you have the answer to why motion picture theatres are so palatial. Here is a shrine to democracy where there are no privileged patrons. The wealthy rub elbows with the poor — and are better for this contact. Do not wonder, then, at the touches of Italian Renaissance, executed in glazed polychrome terra cotta, or at the lobbies and foyers adorned with replicas of precious masterpieces of another world, or at the imported marble wainscoting or the richly ornamented ceilings with motifs copied from master touches of Germany, France, and Italy, or at the carved niches, the cloistered arcades, the depthless mirrors, and the great sweeping staircases. These are not impractical attempts at showing off. These are part of a celestial city — cavern of many-colored jewels, where iridescent lights and luxurious fittings heighten the expectations of pleasure. It is richness unabashed, but richness with a reason.”

This is the famous quote-there were NO boxes of any sort, resulting in a classless democratic experience for every attendee. Here is the early list of their works (my focus was there along with what they did in Iowa-all related to putting the Davenport Capitol into some context:

Rapp & Rapp Theaters, 1906-20:

This design team is credited with over 400 theatre designs nationwide. There is no way to know if this translates into full-scale new designs or re-designs (Garrick Theatre, Chicago, 1930s). Rapp & Rapp partnered with other architects when a theatre was a part of a larger building. In one instance they designed a roof-top dance garden along with their theatre (Saxe’s Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1924, non-extant). Commonly, artists or artist/architects were brought in to do the actual ornamentation or at least the artwork. Ninety-three of these are identified and almost all of these are sufficiently documented (number of seats, historical name, year of construction-usually opening year, style). This list is chronological. Fourteen of the pre-1921 designs were in Illinois, mostly Chicago where the firm was based. During this period single commissions were secured in Oklahoma, Minnesota, while there were three in Iowa and two in Wisconsin and Ohio. Their last project (the firm continued in existence) dates to 1937. The firm did a number of atmospheric theatre designs as well but at least one was actually done by another partner architect, their designs included Gateway Theatre, Chicago (1930-extant) and Toledo Paramount, 1929 is non-extant. Thirty-four theaters, of about the same size (or larger) as the Capitol, were built between 1920 and 1937. Fifteen of these have been demolished or have lost their original interiors. Add the three other pre-1921 designs in this same size category, and the Capitol is one of a total of 37 R&R designs, 16 of which have been lost.

Date Name/City Seats Evaluation/Status Descriptive Comments
1906 Majestic/Chicago 2,300 Restored Beaux Arts, Edmund P. Krause Architect (Krause was clearly the real designer here)
1908 Majestic/Cedar Rapids 1,400 Non-extant Adam style, auditorium added to existing building, burned 1934
1909 Kedzie/Chicago 3,202 Non-extant Apparently a double-theatre with two addresses
1910 B. F. Keith’s Theatre/ Cincinnati 1,500 Non-extant Part of 18-story office building, J. M. Wood architect, theatre might have been new infill within walls of previous Columbia Theatre
1910? Majestic/Dubuque 1,000 Restored, NRHP 1972 French Renn/modeled on Moulin Rouge, Paris, Second Empire
1910-1913 Bryn Mawr Theatre/Chicago 785 Remodeled Art Deco in 1930s Closed, now a church
1912 North Shore Cinema/ Chicago ? Non-extant, closed by 1927
1912 Englert Theatre/ Davenport 1,000 NRHP, national significance, theatre area gutted 1926 fire gutted Rapp and Rapp designed theatre, re-designed by Vorse, Kraetsch and Kraetsch. Only façade remains from
1913 Windsor Theatre/ Chicago 1,300 Non-extant by 1961
1913 Paulina Theatre/ Chicago 884 Non-extant
1914 Orpheum/Champaigne 854 NRHP 1991 Based on Opera Hall at Versailles, Classical Revival or French Renn., two-story row of three storefronts, theatre on end, but 30’ high lobby, 40’ auditorium, large stage, boxes
1915 Al Ringling Theatre/ Baraboo, WI 802 Extant French Renn.
1915 Palace Theatre/ Rockford 1,372 (1945) Non-extant
1916 Star/ Walsonburg, OH 616 Extant, restored Art Deco remodel in 1941 (façade), attributed to “Trinidad Firm, I. H. Rapp”?
1916 Orpheum/Galesburg 966 Open French Renn/2nd Empire, façade Neo-Classical, stage flanked with bays with boxes
1917 Central Park Theatre/Chicago 700 Is a church, exterior altered (is not visible given interior partition walls) This was Chicago’s first palace theater, and likely the first such design by Rapp & Rapp although the seat count is very low. Highly evaluated within city as first collaboration between R&R and Balaban & Katz Theatre Chain. Three story with flanking 4-st. side towers
1917 Palace Theatre/Surperior, WI 1,106 Non-extant, 2006 French Renn., lobby altered to Art Deco, apparently redesigned by Liebenberg & Kaplan who did 200+ theatres in Upper Midwest, vaudeville stage
1917 Olympia Theatre/ Chicago 582 Extant, gutted Renn. Revival, assumed to by R&R as they did two other designs for Schoenstadt Circuit.
1918-1921 Riviera Theatre/ Chicago 2,500 NRHP, Uptown District, 2000, apparently has lost almost all of its original ornamentation Started in mid-1918 but was delayed two years by the war, façade is like an Italianate design with a rounded centered pediment, early example of small theatre façade leading to large building recessed from street, combined with 8 storefronts and 30 apts., second theatre for Balaban & Katz by R&R, Chicago’s first movie palace, orchestra and films only, Neo-Classical
1919 Peoples Theatre/ Chicago 2,400 Non-extant Art Moderne remodel in late 1930s, said to match Tulsa’s Akdar (early 1920), Schoenstadt Circuit
1919 State Lake Theatre/ Chicago 2,734 Theater space non-extant, façade restored sans marquee French Renn., vaudeville, Orpheum Circuit
1920 Akdar Temple Theatre/Tulsa 1,800 Non-extant French Renn. Claimed but looks Moorish, like a huge corn palace with minarets, three-story, occupies entire block with theatre in center
1920 Capitol Theatre/ St. Paul 2,350 Theatre space non-extant 1965 Spanish Baroque, part of Hamm Bldg., had largest stage outside of Chicago, 88x330 with 17’ proscenium
1920 Capitol Theatre/ Davenport 2,500 NRHP, 1983
Other Rapp and Rapp Iowa Designs:
1927 Orpheum Theatre/ Sioux City 2,650 NRHP 2000 Baroque, French. Renn.
1931 Adler Theatre/ Davenport 2,400 Restored Art Deco

I am looking for any secondary source treatment of the Rapp’s, C. W. Rapp died in 1926 so I am of the opinion that their really significant work pre-dated that brother’s death—of course some other family members came into the firm and they turned to doing a few atmospheric theatre designs during the 1930s.

Pleased to get your response. I see your list lacks the Capitol. Let’s talk more.

JimJacobsen commented about Englert Theatre on Jul 31, 2007 at 3:07 pm

In response to Paul W. I asked the historian at Iowa State Historic Preservation Office re. proof of the architects-his response was that local newspapers identified the architects (no citation offered of course-but not based on plans). It is certainly possible, they were doing smaller commissions at that time.

I am interested in proving that the Capitol Theatre/Kahl Building in Davenport, Iowa, is the oldest intact large-scale example of R&R’s democratic theatre design, that which became their standard design (no boxes, rounded stage front with side stages).

JimJacobsen commented about Englert Theatre on Mar 12, 2007 at 7:02 pm

The fire destroyed the Rapp and Rapp original design but the facade survives, architects Vorse, Kraetsch and Kraetsch of Des Moines did the 1926 remodel, however the second interior was pretty much gone when it was restored.