LANSING, MICH. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today announced that the historic State Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo has been given special recognition through its listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Administered in Michigan by the State Historic Preservation Office, the National Register of Historic Places is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historic significance.
“The State Theatre has been a beloved fixture in Kalamazoo for nearly 100 years and is one of the few theaters of its kind in Michigan,” Governor Whitmer said. “The new designation makes the case for the significance of the theatre’s past, and also its future, as a source of entertainment for theater lovers, history buffs, and tourists for years to come.”
Located on South Burdick Street in downtown Kalamazoo, the Spanish courtyard-style State Theatre was built in 1927 as part of the W.S. Butterfield Company, the largest theatre operator in Michigan at that time. It is significant for its masterful design by international movie palace architect John Eberson, a prolific theatre designer in the 1920s and 30s. The auditorium was constructed in the “atmospheric style,” where elaborate ornamentation and decoration gave the audience the sense that they were being entertained outdoors.
The State Theatre was built to accommodate both live performances and motion pictures, employing the hallmarks of both, including a Barton theatre organ and a projection space. It is the last of numerous Kalamazoo theatres to remain from the early 20th Century.
In the early 1980s, a concerted effort was undertaken by the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission to establish historic designation for architecturally significant buildings and districts across the city. The Vine, Stuart, and Bronson Park Historic Districts were all listed at this time, as were numerous individual properties of local significance, including the State Theatre.
At the time, however, the then-owner of the theatre thought such a historic designation would make operating or selling the building more difficult and objected to the nomination. Officially, it was “determined eligible for listing in the National Register” at that time, but not formally listed.
The State Theatre was purchased in 1985 by The Hinman Company of Kalamazoo, which has since worked carefully to maintain and restore parts of the theatre building. Some of the major repairs included restoring the unique architectural features on the interior and exterior of the theatre, repainting venue spaces back to original colors with the help of Western Michigan University Art Department, and updating the necessary features like electrical, heating and cooling, flooring and additional restrooms. All was done to allow the Kalamazoo State Theatre to continue to live on with its original purpose as an entertainment gathering space and centerpiece of downtown Kalamazoo.
The Hinman Company formally requested the removal of the objection earlier this fall and the removal was submitted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington D.C. shortly thereafter. The National Register listing was made official on November 17. As a last step, the SHPO will submit additional research and documentation about the theatre’s significance.
“We are excited to celebrate with the Hinman Company on the formal listing of the State Theatre in the National Register of Historic Places,” said Mark A. Rodman, Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer. “They’ve been great stewards of this historic theatre for more than thirty years, but this designation truly recognizes the significance of the State to the Kalamazoo community and the state of Michigan.”
The Hinman Company continues to own the State Theatre today and brings live performances and theatrical screenings to southwest Michigan.
“Once it sinks in that there are more than 90 years of memories in this space, so does the realization that it is a great responsibility and opportunity to do what we can to keep the legacy in motion,” said Stephanie Hinman, executive director of the Kalamazoo State Theatre. “Through our mission, to preserve this historic building by providing diverse programming that is relevant to our community, we hope to assist in creating more memorable experiences for years to come.”
The State Theatre has been a treasured landmark in downtown Kalamazoo since 1927 and serves as an important Kalamazoo destination. For more than 90 years, it has anchored South Burdick Street, delighting crowds with a wide variety of concerts and events.
“Kalamazoo has three iconic theaters – Chenery Auditorium with its superb acoustics, the Civic which was the birthplace of community theater in Kalamazoo, and the spectacular State Theater – the Eberson-designed movie palace,” said city of Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Coordinator Sharon Ferraro. “The State Theater is dear to our hearts and holds fond memories for all of its guests, whether they visited it only once or a hundred times. We are excited to see the State join Chenery and the Civic to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places where it belongs. Congratulations!”
More than 95,000 properties across the country, including nearly 2,000 in Michigan, have been listed in the National Register since the program began in the 1960s. The National Register is a program of the National Park Service and administered by the states.
To be considered for listing in the National Register, a property must generally be at least 50 years old, and must also be significant when evaluated in relationship to major historical events or trends in the history of their community, the state, or the nation. A property must also possess historic integrity – the ability to convey its significance.
Listing of a property in the National Register is honorary and places no restrictions on what a property owner may do. They are not required to open the site to the public nor to display a plaque acknowledging the listing, although many companies offer plaques to recognize the hard work and effort to get a property officially listed. In addition, listing in the National Register provides opportunities for promotion, makes available certain incentives like grants and tax credits that foster investment in our cities, towns, and villages, and allows for the consideration of historic resources when federal funding or permits are involved.
For more information about the National Register of Historic Places program in Michigan, and how to nominate a property, visit https://www.miplace.org/historic-preservation/programs-and-services/national-register-of-historic-places/
For more information or a copy of any of these or other National Register nominations, please contact SHPO at email@example.com.
Quotes from area legislators:
“The Kalamazoo State Theatre has been an important part of Kalamazoo’s history for some 94 years featuring some of the best musicians, singers, comedians, and entertainers in Michigan and throughout the country,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. “This treasured theatre really does take folks back in time, with its brick walls and illuminated entrance, as they enjoy the hundreds of shows that come to the theatre annually. I send my heartfelt congratulations to the Kalamazoo State Theatre, its curators, and the entire Kalamazoo community on this well-deserved honor to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”
“I am overjoyed that the State Historic Preservation Office has announced that the Kalamazoo State Theatre will be named to the National Register of Historic Places,” said State Representative Julie M. Rogers, D-Kalamazoo. “Since attending my first concert at the State Theatre with my father as a young girl, I have marveled at the magic of this special building. Its starry night sky and glowing lanterns have lit many special performing arts events and it is truly a treasured gem in the Kalamazoo community.”
“The State Theater is an iconic pillar of Kalamazoo’s downtown district and vibrant arts culture," said Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo. "I am delighted that it will be preserved as a national historic landmark for future generations to enjoy.”
About the State Historic Preservation Office
Focused on the historic preservation of culturally or archaeologically significant sites throughout the state, Michigan's State Historic Preservation Office’s main function is to provide technical assistance to local communities in their efforts to identify, evaluate, designate, interpret and protect Michigan’s historic above- and below-ground resources. SHPO also administers an incentives program that includes federal tax credits and pass-through grants available to certified local governments.
About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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