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Friday, October 5, 2012

Calumet, Michigan

Calumet, Michigan ("B" on this Google Map) is not as remote a town as Copper Harbor ("A") on the Keweenaw Peninula.

But it has a large number of buildings (especially large churches) that make you wonder why a town of 798 is has such a large presence.  The answer is that it used to be bigger.  In 1900 the surrounding township had a population of over 25,000 and the Houghton County population totaled over 88,000.

We drove into town looking for one notable church and passed over this rough pavement.

I soon discovered that it was historic pavement!  I took another picture to show it in a better light.
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There are a few properties that could be turned into real improvement projects.

But some, like this old bar have been restored to very good condition.

But the pride of Calumet is its Theater.  Many towns had a nice theater for various traveling opera companies, theater companies, minstrel shows and the like around 1900.  But Calumet's was special.  It was owned by the city, held 1200 seats and when it opened in 1900 it had 1441 incandescent electric lights.  Another 160 lights outside spelled out the building's name.

The building is well-preserved and open to the public for self-guided tours.  It is well worth the stop if you are in the area.  A 1978 restoration project left a beautiful building.  The actual Theater is the right half of the building pictured.  The town hall occupies the left half.  Like many town halls of the day, there was a large upstairs room that served as a venue for town meetings, large wedding receptions, dances and other public events.

Here are a few interior scenes.
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Band leader, John Philip Sousa played the hall three times.

Lillian Russel, Sarah Bernhardt and Harry Houdini also made appearances.  Famed Polish-born actress, Helena Modjeska, made appearances too.  
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One minor complaint.  For a town that appears to want to make money from tourists, the parking meters are a bit of a pain - even when you can feed them for only a nickel or a dime.  And the parking rules near the Theater?

The rules seem odd, even if they are simple as 1-2-3.  And the folks in the theater building say "you will get a ticket, if you didn't back in!"
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