A dream became a reality this month when the Friends of the Braumart were able to purchase the 90-year-old theatre in Iron Mountain’s downtown.
And now the real work begins, as they take full ownership of the building at 106 E. B St. and begin restoring it.
To share their ideas of what should be done with the building as well as programming, the group will host an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. There will be music, refreshments and door prizes.
Braumart supporters will announce a major concert series during the open house. The announcement also will be shared Saturday on The Daily News website at www.ironmountaindailynews.com.
The group has begun cleaning up the interior of the building and that is creating a buzz in the community, they said.
“There’s an excitement in the air – you can just feel it. There are people driving by and pointing at the building as they see us working inside. They want to know what’s going to happen next, what our plans will be,” Friends of the Braumart board member John Estes said.
The Friends of the Braumart became a non-profit organization in 2007. The board includes nine members, plus four or five other dedicated volunteers.
A down payment for the building was made possible when the Dickinson County 100-Plus Women Who Care donated $19,000 in August 2913.
Friends of the Braumart bought the theatre through a loan with additional money to do the initial work needed to stabilize the building.
In addition, the General Federation of Women’s Club (GFWC) has taken on the Braumart as their community project for the next two years. The city of Iron Mountain, Downtown Development Authority and YMCA have all supported this effort.
The group has received support or money from almost 400 people from 10 states, board member Jinx Brew said.
“It’s people that grew up here and moved away as well as local residents, businesses and organizations,” Brew said. “People have already committed to the Braumart and we want to include them in our planning.”
She added that as a board, they want to make good spending decisions.
“They have invested in us and we want to do the right thing – to meet our goal of getting a solid theatre plan and implement it with input from as many people as we can.”
Even before the building was bought, business people had checked in willing to help out with the repairs or renovations and from artists with ideas on what entertainment to offer.
“We have moved slowly and carefully to get the right process going. We had the building professionally evaluated and found that, other than a new roof membrane, the building itself is sound,” Estes said.
They started cleaning up the theatre by tackling the basement, getting rid of old chairs, cardboard and paper Trico Opportunities picked up to recycle. They filled two 40-yard dumpsters and removed 5,000 pounds of metal to be recycled, he said.
Concessions in the lobby will be shifted to the other side, Estes said. The roof will gain a new membrane as well.
To help in their efforts, the Friends of the Braumart joined the League of Historic American Theatres, which has helped renovate 400 theatres in the U.S.
“They serve as our mentors and because of what they have done, we can avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that happened in other theatres that were renovated,” Brew said.
The group also brought in a theatre architect from Milwaukee. The group has the architectural drawings from the original building, which are at the Milwaukee Pubic Library for reference and they also have a copy, Brew said.
“Our goal is to get a solid theatre plan and implement it with as many people as we can. We believe we can make an impact on the community with a theatre that offers many different opportunities for people. It is something we haven’t had here in awhile,” she said.
Estes and Brew shared information on how the Braumart was named back in 1925. There was a contest in The Daily News to name a new theatre on B Street, they said, and the Braumart was the winner.
“The winning name was a combination of the two men’s names – from Brauns’ last name and Thomas’ first name – Martin to come up with the name Braumart Theatre,” Brew said.
The group, while making improvements to the building, also has embraced its history in the community. They want to restore it as much as they can, including changing the marquee, walls and outside facade to reflect that 1930s look.
Brew said they are looking for pictures of both the lobby and theatre and would appreciate anyone donating them to the Braumart.
They have many photos of the building’s exterior, including people lining up waiting to get into the building for big events.
“The ceiling was very ornate in the theatre, with a large chandelier and two smaller ones in the lobby. We have one of the smaller chandeliers and want to put it back together and use it. Someone had saved the old glass from the ticket booth that was outside on the sidewalk and we want to use that in our renovations as well as the decorative glass from the poster cases that someone found in their father’s basement,” Brew said.
They already found some photos and articles in the office, including when bands played there and have taken old projector equipment to place on display.
One of the bigger tasks will be getting the old original boiler out of the basement.
“It will have to be cut out in pieces. It looks like a train and is huge – like they poured the cement in the basement and put in the boiler and then built the building around it,” Estes said.
A new heating/cooling system will be needed, along with updating and replacing the electrical system, Estes said.
He also talked about an immediate need to get an elevator so all floors are accessible. They plan to seek grants for the major repairs.
“You can see that it’s been quite a few years since anything has been done to the building. These are things that will need to be done so the theatre is in usable condition for events. The downtown and businesses will benefit from this work since having an active theatre in town brings people to the downtown and raised occupancy in other vacant buildings,” Estes said.
They will have to make the stage area bigger than it is now, he added, because of the technology being used for performances. They also want to be able to draw in some bigger events and shows to the Braumart.
The theatre has seating for 440 right now and that will eventually change when they have to take a few rows out for a bigger stage.
All of this work to bring the back the Braumart is to support the arts, Brew said.
“We want to bring in singers, artists, actors, filmmakers and provide opportunities to entertain and educate young people,” Brew said.
“The Braumart was built in 1925, when a lot of other theatres were being constructed in Michigan. We want to get back that feeling – that it is a community gathering place for fun and interesting events for all ages,” Brew said.
Source: February 26, 2016, The Iron Mountain Daily News