Photo taken by Dave King
Vaudeville touring acts performed at the Englert, where townspeople and students filled its 1,071 seats. In addition to live stage acts, the Englert boasted high quality projection equipment for showing three-reel films. The Englert family lived on the second floor of the theater building and provided rooms for the performers on the third floor. In 1920, William Englert died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his bedroom, now the Englert offices, at only 46 years old.
Following William’s death, Etta enlisted A.H. Blank and his partner Nate Chapman to oversee operation of the Englert, but Nate died in 1925, leaving his wife Dora with 2 small children, Ansel, age 10 (destined to be a local District Court Judge and later involved in the Englert management) and Marvin, age 4. Dora retained a partnership with Blank, and her brother Al Davis became manager of the Englert, a position he held until he retired. A woman ahead of the times, Dora was always involved in the operation of the theater.
By 1999 the managers of the Englert finally decided to close the theater and sell the aging building. It was purchased by a bar owner, who had plans to turn it into a nightclub. Not wanting to see the theater disappear, a group of concerned citizens persuaded the City of Iowa City to purchase the theater and hold it in trust until funds could be raised.
For the next 5 years, this group of citizens mobilized to purchase the theater from the City of Iowa City and rebuild the Englert as a community cultural center. They began the “Save the Englert” campaign to raise the funds necessary to renovate the theater to its former grandeur.
Hundreds of local businesses and individuals contributed countless hours and millions of dollars to bring the theater back to life. Their contributions are forever recognized on the large Capital Campaign plaque in our lobby, on the nameplates on the seats around you, and on numerous signs around the building.
Finally, on December 3, 2004, a community’s dream became a reality when The Englert Theatre reopened for live performance for the first time in more than 60 years. Today, The Englert Theatre stands as a testament to all who believed in its recreation.