CALUMET — The members of the Calumet Theater board of directors were treated to a surprise during its regular meeting on Monday.
Board chairman Dan Jamison told the board that when he, along with theater executive director Jay Maki and engineers from UP Engineers and Architects, inspected the theater building two weeks ago, they discovered memories of when the Calumet Theater ballroom functioned as a public hall, equipped with a stage that featured theater stage curtains.
What we already knew is that there is another floor above the ballroom. On this level, directly above the stage, is a dressing room in case a dressing room is needed for events.
Jamison said the ballroom, located on the second floor of City Hall, had never served as an opera house or anything elaborate.
“It was just a public ballroom with a stage,” he said.
During the construction of the new opera adjoining the village hall to the south in 1899, it was necessary to build a new roof spanning both the village hall and the opera. However, the new roof was built over the old roofline, which was left intact under the new roof.
“When They Did That” he said, “they left the locker room in place.”
They also left in place the pulleys that raised and lowered a stage curtain. The pulleys, he said, were attached to a pipe from which the curtain hung and were attached to the 1886 rafters.
Jamison said he’s walked around several times over the years and been puzzled by the presence of a walk-in closet in the attic.
“If they put the locker room here,” he wondered, “How did they go from this box to the theatre? Well, they didn’t.
Originally, there was a staircase leading from the front of the ballroom to the area above the stage, on what would have been stage left, he said. The dressing room was in case one was needed for the original stage located at the end of the ballroom.
When Red Jacket Village Hall was originally built in 1886, the structure had a projecting tower with an open belfry. The first floor of the building contained the village clerk’s office, the council chamber, a fire station and a jail (the jail is still intact, it is now used for storage). The second floor housed the public hall.
The Calumet Village Centenary Souvenir Book 1875-1975 twice implies that this ballroom was an original opera house, one of which states that the new opera house, opened in 1900, “succeeded an opera house built in 1887.”
On the same page (15), he goes on to state that:
“For years residents have expressed musical, dramatic and other interests through religious organizations and other societies, often using St. Patrick’s Hall, Italian Hall or the Light Guard Armory as well as the former opera.”
Jamison, however, said the 1887 public hall was most likely used for civic events such as Christmas parties and private events.
In 1900, major changes were made to the town hall during the construction of the opera house. Alterations included an entirely new roof that spanned both the original ballroom and the new opera house.
Today the ballroom is considered part of the property, along with the opera house, now the Calumet Theater, under lease with the Calumet Theater Co., which was organized in 1983, and is available to rent for private events.
The Calumet Theater website says the ballroom seats up to 250 people and includes a stage, small sound system, piano, and kitchenette.