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History of the Kent Theatre

The Kent Theatre was originally built by Frederick Hubbard as the Hubbard Opera House in 1880. With north-south and east-west railroads servicing the town, the huge Johnson-Link Sawmill, and many other shingle and saw mills in full operation, Cedar Springs was awash with laborers and cash. Frederick Hubbard, a local entrepreneur, saw the need for a dance hall and entertainment center when he built the Opera House, and he also added a small bank in the NW corner of the building where the the theatre office is currently located.

It was constructed with a large stage and dressing rooms, had a large mural painted on the main drape by a local artist, and had advertising on the curtain and on cards around the front of the proscenium. The house was lit with acetylene lamps, and the floor was flat with removable chairs so the hall could be used for dances, chicken suppers, and school graduations. Cedar Springs, Michigan, was a booming lumber town in the 1880’s and the Hubbard Opera House became the site for harmonica and fiddle contests, political rallies, and homegrown talent shows. The Opera House became a stop for Vaudeville productions, and theatrical directors from Chicago would produce plays using local talent as late as the 1920’s.

Silent movies became the rage in entertainment, and in 1922 the Opera house became the Emprise Theatre. It was purchased that year by the original Cedar Springs Theatre Association, a group of local businessmen and farmers. A local doctor and dentist, Dr. Brayman and Dr. Ferguson, were hired to manage the theatre. Folding chairs were set up, a screen erected, and silent movies were shown for many years. Many improvements were made to the building including lights, fans for ventilation, a new projector and new furnace. Unfortunately, the improvements ate up most of the profits and, as the investors became disenchanted, the theatre was sold in 1932 to the American Legion. The Legion was not in the theatre business for long and in 1933 the theatre was purchased by Morris Frank and renamed the Kent Theatre.

With the help of George Ferguson, the theatre was extensively re-modeled with a new brick facade and a neon marquee and canopy. The dance floor was re-engineered to slope and fixed seats were installed.

Morris Frank ran the theatre successfully for many years and in 1962 he sold it to a pair of long time employees, John and Charlotte Rogalewski. John and Charlotte ran the theatre for 15 years. As single screen theatres closed all over the country, the building was sold to Russ and Marjorie Lewis. The seats were removed and sold and Mr. Lewis ran a print shop out of the building until he passed away. The theatre sat vacant for many years. In 1997 the Cedar Springs Theatre Association was re-formed and the modern renovation began.

Rumors that Kent is haunted are unverified, but there have been several "sightings" of what many people call a ghost. Whether it is just normal old building creaks, groans, and cold spots or the just the normal old paranormal, you'll just have to come and see for yourself!

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