When you think “beautiful historic theatres,” you most likely imagine the famous opera houses of NYC and the east coast, but one of the most incredible theatres in North America is actually on Route 66…
The Coleman Theatre in Miami, OK sits right on the first block of Main St., but you know the road as another name: Route 66. I first visited the Coleman Theatre on a trip to Miami in college, and nearly 7 years later when I was approaching Miami, OK on a Route 66 adventure, I knew another tour was in order. Here’s how this remarkable theatre found its place in the most unlikely of places…
The turn of the century brought a wealth to some never before imagined in America. George Coleman, through lead and zinc mining in the area, had become fabulously wealthy. With that wealth came the ability to travel and see the vaudeville theatre and movie productions so prevalent on the east coast at the time. Coleman thought he’d bring that some opulence to his home base of Miami, OK.
While Route 66 travelers found funky roadside attractions, comfy lodging, and plenty of diners along the Mother Road, the Coleman Theatre offered them an entertainment experience like no other within the Spanish Revival-styled theatre.
Opened on April 18, 1929 to a sellout crowd of 1,600, the Coleman Theatre was widely regarded as the most beautiful entertainment venue between Dallas and Kansas City.
By the 1980s, after years of use, the Coleman Theatre was in need of restoration, and the Coleman family donated the theatre to the City of Miami. The community rallied around the Coleman Theatre and began efforts to restore her to her 1929 glory. (Of special note: the theatre has NEVER officially closed its doors since it opened in 1929.)
While their efforts are apparent at every turn, the efforts to bring back the once-lost original pipe organ, “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” make quite the statement. Graciously, a Texas organ collector returned the Mighty Wurlitzer to Miami, and it is again in its proper home where it fills the space with music once again.
More about the interior and exterior from TravelOK:
The exterior architecture is Spanish Mission Revival, and terra cotta gargoyles and other hand-carved figures adorn the building facade. The elegant Louis XV interior includes gold leaf trim, silk damask panels, stained glass panels, a carved mahogany staircase, a 2,000 pound chandelier, decorative plaster moldings and railings.
The NPS elaborates:
Entering the theatre, contemporary visitors experience the treat of seeing a remarkable period piece. Restored to its 1920s splendor, the theatre’s gaudy Louis XV decor mightily competes with any entertainment program then or now. The interior offers intricate historical detailing, a fully restored original chandelier, and carved winding staircases flanked by gilded candelabra-toting statues.
As you can see, it really is stunning…
Used today for everything from ballet and opera to classic movie shows to wedding receptions, the Coleman Theatre is a remarkable place. Just as remarkable are the men and women of Miami, OK who have spent countless hours and dollars to make sure this theatre remains a beauty for generations to come.
If you’re traveling across Route 66, a quick tour of the Coleman Theatre in Miami, OK is a must-do. The tour guides beam with that same love for the theatre they used to restore her over the past decades.
Oh… One more thing… like most classic theatres, the Coleman is said to have more than one unsettled spirit roaming through, so be sure to ask your tour guide about the ghosts that supposedly haunt the Coleman Theatre.
Legend says 3 different ghosts roam the Coleman Theatre… One, Mr. Roberts, was the projectionist at the Coleman until he died. Some claim they can smell his bay rum cologne. Others report a ghost who whistles in the basement, a place *supposedly* used as a crematorium. Apparently the basement room also gets really hot for no reason. The most commonly told stories, however, involve the dressing rooms to the side of the stage. Many report seeing ghosts in this area as the spirits “prepare to go onstage.”
The Coleman Theatre:
103 N. Main
Miami, OK 74354
Post-script: Opulence and decay…
The same mining that would make George Coleman a wealthy man and leave Miami with its treasured Coleman Theatre was also absolutely devastating to both the environment and people of east Oklahoma. Lead and zinc contamination has led to much of the rural areas surrounding Miami, OK being red-flagged by the EPA. The most famous of these areas? The now-practically deserted town of Picher, OK. We drove through Picher on one trip to the area, and I’ve never seen anything like it… Read more and see pictures of the toxic town of Picher, OK here.
Cover Photo: Coleman Theatre