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Miami’s Coleman Theatre spectacular W


e’ve had a blast living in the past during our Route 66 road trip through northeast Oklahoma. We began our journey in Foyil last June and


made pit stops in Chelsea, Vinita and Afton in the months that followed.


Along the way, we’ve thrilled at the historic conquest of an amazing athlete, enjoyed quirky landmarks, grabbed a bite to eat at an iconic diner, seen classic cars, crossed bridges that seem to defy time, and much more. Some 60 miles later, during the fifth and final installment of the series, we find ourselves standing on the sidewalk on Main Street in Miami, staring in awe at a magnificent building that looks as out-of-place as any in Oklahoma.


Commissioned by local mining magnate George L. Coleman, the Coleman Theatre opened to a full house of 1,600 guests at a whopping one dollar per ticket on April 18, 1929. Visitors were reportedly “struck aghast” upon arrival, astonished at the sheer beauty of what many knew to be the premier theatre of its time.


From the floral arrangements to the tall-boy seats to the glistening crystal chandeliers, guests were impressed by what Mr. Coleman unveiled that night. It was the town’s first taste of big-city vaudeville and, according to news reports, citizens embraced the theatre with great gusto.


The three-deck Mighty Wurlitzer debuted that night as Owen James brought the crowd to its feet as they sang “America.” A talking picture held the attention of the standing-room-only crowd, a 10-piece ensemble offered an overture from the orchestral pit, “athletic” girls danced, and men with comedic flare summoned roaring laughter from the crowd.


Theatre manager J.H. Griffin called it “the biggest moment” of his life.


4 Northeast Connection


The Coleman Theatre has been dazzling visitors ever since. Its rich legacy includes appearances from such notable figures as Will Rogers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.


Miami’s Coleman was the premier theatre of its time.


Originally a vaudeville theatre and movie palace, the opulent structure is a masterpiece of Spanish Mission Revival architecture, punctuated by gargoyles and other hand-carved figures on the building’s facade. The elegant Louis XV interior features gold leaf trim, silk damask panels, stained glass, a carved mahogany staircase, a 2,000-pound chandelier, and decorative plaster moldings and railings.


The historic structure was donated to the City of Miami by the Coleman family in 1989. Restoration and renovation of the theatre has become a labor of love in the community. Efforts have included returning the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ to its original home and restoring the magnificent chandelier. Hundreds of volunteers have given countless hours of labor, raised funds and promoted a variety of events


to appeal to all tastes and ages. From this movement was formed a non-profit organization known as “Friends of the Coleman.”


“The restoration of the Coleman is a project in process,” say the Friends of the Coleman of the ongoing effort to preserve the theatre’s legacy. “Our vision is a highly functional theatre restored to its former elegance and grandeur. We don’t own anything. We hold it in trust for the next generation.”


Among the projects undertaken by Friends of the Coleman is renovation of the original upstairs meeting hall for use as a conference center and ballroom. The Coleman Theatre today is a thriving hub of activity for the community. A full calendar of events is scheduled, including musical performances, ballet, opera, silent movies, recitals and pageants. The theatre


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