January 29

This Day in History

Disaster

Jan 29, 1922:

Theater collapses in Washington, D.C.

Accumulated snowfall from a blizzard collapses the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1922.

The blizzard formed in the Carolinas on January 26 and moved into the Washington area the following day. For two days, snow blanketed the nation's capital, resulting in accumulations of more than two feet. The large amount of snow crippled transportation in Washington and shut down the government.

By Saturday night, things were beginning to return to normal, and some 300 people attended a movie at Knickerbocker Theatre, at the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road. In the middle of the film, the accumulated snow on the theater's roof collapsed the building and tons of steel and concrete fell down on top of the theatergoers. One hundred and eight people were killed, including five in a single family. Another 133 were hospitalized. Rescuers worked through the night to pull out the injured from beneath the rubble.

President Warren Harding issued his personal condolences to the families of the victims, which included a former congressman. A subsequent investigation by Army engineers blamed poor construction materials for the collapse.

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