Oklahoma's Own: Coleman Theatre's Resurgence Shines Bright In Miami

Monday, February 28th 2011, 9:00 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

MIAMI, Oklahoma -- The Coleman Theatre in Miami is a beautifully restored vaudeville theatre and is truly an Oklahoma treasure.

While the restoration has been ongoing for two decades, there's something new happening at the theatre that is about eight decades overdue.

"I believe we are the grandest vaudeville theatre palace in America in a town this size," Barbara Smith, Executive Director, said.

Mining magnate George Coleman built the theatre to attract Vaudeville performances to an underserved community.  It opened in 1929.

"He built this grand palace in 330 days, it's quite amazing," Smith said.

What's more amazing is the theatre's resurgence after years of neglect. Through a combination of two decades of in-kind labor, grants and donations worth about $6 million, the Coleman Theatre is glorious again.

"Somebody said, it's like eating an elephant one bite at a time, so we made our elephant list and started chipping away," Smith said.

Everyone should be glad they did. They tracked down the theatre's original organ.

"Bureleson, Texas in a warehouse," said Smith.

Research led them to the theatre's 2,000 pound grand chandelier.

"In a horse stable on the Coleman property under hay and water and it was all black," Smith said.

Now, it's stunning, just like everything else. From the 55-foot tall ceiling, to the original backdrop, the grand lobby to the mezzanine.

"I think it is a treasure to the whole state of Oklahoma," Smith said.

Just about everything is original, from many of the fixtures to the stained glass. Anything that isn't was carefully replicated using old photos.

While many people have seen the Coleman Theatre's return to glory over the years, few people have been able to see one part of the historic theatre. But they will get that chance soon.

A grand ballroom was always in the plans, but one was never built until now. Construction is just about finished on a new $2 million ballroom in the old building. It will host conventions and receptions.

It's a great addition for the community, as well as a nice chapter in the theatre's story, and its return to glory.

The Coleman Theatre is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.