A step back in time: the Calumet Theatre


CALUMET — For nearly 120 years, The Calumet Theatre has been an iconic landmark in the Upper Peninsula. From bands to opera, and all acts in between, the stage and seats are a witness to history.

“It was built during the boom of the copper mine industry here, where Calumet which now has a population of probably less than 700, this general vicinity had almost 30,000 people here,” says Marlin Lee, Executive Director of the Calumet Theatre, “There was a lot of money and a lot of folks and the greatest names in show business at that time actually performed on this stage.”

The Calumet Theatre

Lee, who has a background in radio broadcast management, just recently took over the theatre, along with his wife, after vacationing in Calumet and falling in love with the area.

Lee adds, “Here we are and we actually survived a record-breaking snowfall in Calumet, 360 inches, and we’re still here!”

Much of the historic theatre is still original, and, if you believe the stories, some of that history may have never left.

Interior of the Calumet Theatre

“There’s all kinds of stories about this theatre being haunted,” Lee says.

When asked if he had any ghost stories, Lee said he has yet to experience anything himself but relayed a tale from a female city employee.

“She was up here one day, all alone, and she heard music and piano playing and singing from the ballroom,” explains Lee. “I asked her, ‘so what did you do?’, she goes ‘I gathered up my stuff and I left’. I guess when you’ve had this much history and so many people have come through this theatre, there are those stories of this place having ghosts.”

Despite any visitors from the past hanging around the theatre, Lee says they are looking to the future.

“I would like to see the theatre be a leader and a catalyst in a little bit of a rebirth here in Calumet and for the entire Copper County, Keweenaw area. I mean, it’s important because it’s part of our history and this area has got such great history,” he says.

Because of the theatre’s age, it costs money to keep in shape and running.

Lee says, “We really need the support of the public and the business community in a lot of different ways to allow us to maintain this building, because there’s a lot of maintenance involved in a 120-year-old building, and for us to bring in the type of entertainment that the people would like to see here.”

Lee adds that he listens to the community when picking the acts to bring to the theatre. He says they regularly bring big-name performers that they feel will draw in U.P. audiences. The theatre also offers membership options. To see upcoming shows, click here.

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