At an intersection in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood that I pass through practically every day, where now there’s a rather bland bank-and-plaza combo, there used to be the largest cinema in the city. The Knickerbocker was built by a theater magnate by the name of Harry Crandall (no relation as far as I know). For you Washingtonians - from this angle, looking northeast toward 18th and Columbia, notice the BB&T bank building in the background. The building a little to the left, next to the trolley, has the current Starbucks.

In January 1922, a snowstorm collapsed the entire roof of the Knickerbocker during a packed screening of the comedy “Get Rich Quick Wallingford”, killing more than 90 people and injuring more than 130 others.

Today, 91 years later almost to the day, as a light snow fell on DC, the Washington Post had a great series of images from the snowstorm and the theater tragedy:

How the Knickerbocker Storm Got Its Name

Here’s a nice shot of the Knickerbocker Theater in 1917:


Harry Crandall went on to build the Lincoln Theater, which still stands at 12th and U Streets, and the Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights, which after many years of decrepitude is restored and an anchor of the revitalized neighborhood. My dad said he remembered going to see movies there when he lived in Mt. Pleasant in the late 1950s.

Harry Crandall committed suicide in 1937.