As Tibbits Opera House, Coldwater, Michigan readies for restoration of its architectural façade, ground work is being laid for a documentary about the preservation effort, the value of restoration and the unique elements of the Tibbits project.
Documentarian Michael Mort and his Equity Studios met with Tibbits staff and others close to the project to lay out a proposal for creating a 30- to 60-minute documentary on the restoration. The documentary is being designed as a piece with state and national distribution potential.
Recognizing the Tibbits restoration is truly one-of-a-kind requiring rare craftsmanship and a nearly lost art, Brian Black, General Manager of Grand River Builders proposed having a professional record the work.
Mort was contacted and excited about the possibilities the Tibbits project offers. He brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge about Michigan history and preservation work. He is the author of “A Bridge worth Saving: A community guide for the preservation of historical bridges.” He has won awards from the Historical Society of Michigan and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network for his contribution to historical preservation in the state. His historical documentary credits include “Michigan Avenue” a film series seen on Michigan PBS, and topics covering Michigan’s historic bridges, lighthouses, one room schools, inns, museums and even Michigan wines.
An initial meeting on the documentary included Mort, Black, former state Senator Cameron Brown and Tibbits representatives, Executive Director Christine Delaney, Special Events/ Development Coordinator Lori Gunthorp and Board President and local historian Randall Hazelbaker.
The Tibbits façade is unique in that it is a complete restoration starting from a nearly clean slate and involving the major crafts required in preservation — masonry, metal, stone and carpentry. More information and donation opportunities for the Tibbits Opera House, 14 South Hanchett Street, Coldwater, can be found by calling 517-278-6029 or visiting http://www.Tibbits.org.
About the Tibbets Opera House, Coldwater
In 1882, Art Gallery owner H.C. Lewis first proposed that he and Barton S. Tibbits fund and build an opera house, something Lewis soon backed down on. Tibbits forged ahead. Financing the construction of Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, he would “build an opera house if it ‘bust’ my factory.” Tibbits spent his fortune to build this grand theatre named after him and died financially broke having spent all he had to give his gift of a theatre to generations of people.
Tibbits Opera House was a very attractive stop along State Route US 12 for traveling performers moving between Detroit and Chicago. The many famous entertainers who have captivated audiences over the years are legendary. They would include P.T. Barnum, Ethel Barrymore, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Bob Newhart and more recently Mickey Rooney, Jeff Daniels and John Corbett.
After a 25 year run as the local movie house, the theatre was closed in 1954 and stood vacant and fading. A group of local citizens joined together to save Tibbits from the wrecking ball in the 1960’s. They did a great job of restoring the theatre. Their efforts allowed Tibbits to once again function as a viable theatre offering local community theatre productions, children’s programming, a professional summer theatre season, touring performing acts, comedians, musicians, the annual Rotary show and more.