The Regent Theatre


East side of S. Rose St., across from Academy St. (former Academy of Music).

Built and run as the Academy of Music from May 8, 1882 to June 4, 1919 (learn more…).

Renovated and reopened August 31, 1919, as a vaudeville and film house (renamed Regent) by W.S. Butterfield.

Theater destroyed by fire on June 11, 1930.

Upon opening: Roy Tillson, Manager; Don Warren, leader of Regent six piece orchestra.

Regent Theatre entrance, c.1926. Private collection.

The following articles, published in the Kalamazoo Gazette during the summer of 1919, give a brief sketch of the renovation work that would transform the Academy of Music into the Regent Theatre. (all sic.)

“‘The Regent Theatre’ is the name by which the Academy of Music is to be hereafter known, the popular playhouse having today been re-christened by W.S. Butterfield, who is in the city overseeing alterations and repairs which will transform the Regent into a strictly modern amusement place. And this name, Regent, will blaze out from a large electric sign.

Col. Butterfield with his architectural engineer have gone entirely over the theatre. ‘Many changes have been decided upon,’ said the colonel today.

‘The lower floor is to be entirely re-seated with opera chairs of a comfortable pattern. The seating will be extended back into the foyer, giving capacity for an audience of 650 on the lower floor alone. A change is to be made in the stairway leading to the balcony, to give additional floor space, and an inside stairway to the gallery will be constricted. The present seating in the gallery is to be discarded and the chairs removed from the lower floor substituted.

‘New scenery will be installed. The marquee in front of the theatre is to be rebuilt. The interior of the house is to be entirely re-decorated. Work on the alterations will be pushed rapidly in order that the theatre may be re-opened Sunday, September 1.’”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 13, 1919

“The Regent theatre, formerly the old Academy of Music, will soon be ready to open for the coming season, announced the new manager, Roy Tillson, of Columbus, Ohio, yesterday afternoon.

‘Alterations and repairs to the amount of $30,000 have been made upon the old building in an effort to give Kalamazoo one of the most modern and most up-to-date playhouses in the state,’ he said, ‘and we expect to put on a high-class grade of vaudeville.’

The old building is being changed in a great many ways, although the seating arrangement will be almost similar to the former one. New seats are being installed and the interior of the building is being entirely re-decorated in the latest ‘Mist of the Marne’ blue.


The lobby has been finished in a beautiful creamy white, with the best of Tennessee wainscoating. A new ticket window has been installed which adds greatly to the appearance of the entrance. Inside the doors, the greatest noticeable changes are in the decorations which all add to the appearance of the play house. Two new auto boxes, one on either side, have been added. Otherwise, the seating arrangements are the same.

The beautiful painting on the ceiling above the orchestra circle representing ‘the Aurora Borealis’ has been cleaned and is in perfect condition in spite of its 37 years of age. It adds a foreign touch to the appearance of the house. The stage has also been well planned, enlarged and made more practical for the modern vaudeville companies. The new asbestos curtain is finished in the same ‘Mist of the Marne’ blue, giving an added light affect to the audience.


From a safety point of view, the new theatre is one of the best protected in the state. There will now be eleven exits from the building, which would allow it to be emptied of an audience in a remarkably short time.

Tillson, the new manager, had been with Col. W. S. Butterfield for some years. Prior to coming to Kalamazoo he was managing a vaudeville house at Olentangy Park, Columbus, Ohio. …

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 24, 1919

“A one hundred per cent comedy bill will mark the opening vaudeville to be on view at the new Regent theatre four days starting Sunday Afternoon. …

Draperies were hung and carpets laid yesterday at the Regent. Gray, gold and royal blue form the color scheme of the hangings and they set off the theatre in rich style. Today will see most of the new seats installed on the main floor. New upholstered opera chairs of latest design were ordered for the Regent some months ago but owing to delay in shipment these will not arrive for several weeks. The work of placing the new chairs will be done without interuption to the performances and installation taking place a few rows at a time after the close of the regular shows.

Several thosand dollars have been spent in new lighting effects alone. The stage will be a blaze of electrical brilliance. New border lights and numerous high powered lamps will make the realm of the theatrical folks up to the minute in every detail. New and artistic fixtures are being installed in the auditorium and foyers. …

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 24, 1919


Information originally compiled in 1995 by J.P. Jenks. Additional information was later added by library staff. Information compiled from Kalamazoo City Directory listings, details obtained in researching newspaper reports published at the time by the Kalamazoo Gazette and Kalamazoo Telegraph Press, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Kalamazoo County Warranty Deeds and numerous other sources. Updated March 2019.

Additional Resources


A History of Theater in Kalamazoo

Pixley, Jorge V., 1958
H 792 P694

Theater in Kalamazoo from 1860–1890

Johns, Marion, 1955
H 792 J65


“Butterfield Gets Academy”

Kalamazoo Gazette, March 16, 1919, p.15.

“Open Academy of Music As Vaudeville Theatre on Easter Sunday”

Kalamazoo Gazette, April 6, 1919, p.1.

“Prepare Academy For Vaudeville”

Kalamazoo Gazette, April 9, 1919, p.1.

“6 Vaudeville Acts To Open Academy Show”

Kalamazoo Gazette, April 13, 1919, p.15.

“To Be Known As Regent Theatre”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 13, 1919, p.7.

“Cannot Erect Theatre Sign — 152 Foot Electrical Display Costing $3,200 was Ready For Academy”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 19, 1919, p.11.

“Regent Theatre Is Nearly Ready for Opening”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 24, 1919, p.11.


Kalamazoo Gazette, August 28, 1919, p.9.

“Place Regent Theatre Sign”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 29, 1919, p.9.

“Vaudeville Season Opens Today at Regent Theatre”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 31, 1919, p.11.

“Recall Opening Of Old Theatre Famous Troupe Dedicated Theater In 1882, Now Remodelled Regent”

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 31, 1919, p.13.

Local History Room Files

Subject File: Theater

Subject File: Elite Theater

Subject File: Majestic Theater

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