Returned Home

The original pipe organ, the "Mighty Wurlitzer", has returned home to the Coleman. The J. T. Peterson Organ Company of Fort Worth, Texas restored, refurbished, enhanced and completed the reinstallation of the organ in the theatre in 1996. Lyn Larsen, noted theatre organist was the artist for the gala "Mighty Wurlitzer Homecoming Concerts." All of the $85,000 used to repurchase and repair the organ were donated by citizens of the Miami community. The Coleman Theatre Beautiful is the only theatre in Oklahoma (and one of the few in the United States) that has its original pipe organ installed in its original setting.

In 1983, The Coleman Theatre Beautiful was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was given by the Coleman family to the city of Miami in 1989, and is currently being restored to its original grandeur. The State of Oklahoma, Miami Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Friends of the Coleman and GRDA combined to under- write a 1995 project to seal the outer wall envelope of the building, so as to make it more energy efficient.


History of the Mighty Wurlitzer

Time, energy and a lot of luck. That's what it took to find the lost "Mighty Wurlitzer."

It started with Miami's Administrative Assistant, Sue Valliere, whose vision was to search for the Mighty Wurlitzer. Sue, along with the Sooner Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society, worked diligently to make this happen. To these people we are very grateful. Sue was directed to Jim Peterson of Burleson, Texas. A contract was made between M.D.R.A. and J. T. Peterson to "provide, restore and install the (3) three manual Wurlitzer pipe organ originally installed in the Coleman Theatre Beautiful in Miami, Oklahoma (circa 1929) per attached specifications and modifications" for $70, 697. Estimated value today is $300,000.

The Wurlitzer Opus 2026 Model 160 special pipe organ, authenticated by serial numbers found on the instrument, was delivered for installation February 21, 1929. The console is a massive, French-style mahogany design. Peterson has updated the manual switching to state-of-the-art digital switching in the restoration and added three ranks of pipes in the upper line "to include additional 'spicy' sounds, to complement the sweet and lush sounds of the original instrument. A theater organ, unlike a church pipe organ, was designed to sound like a full and complete orchestra. A digital recording device, called a MIDI, is an enhancement included in the updated organ. This device may be used to playback the identical musical number or the entire program. Many volunteers have been "on call" to aid when needed. These volunteers have logged hours and hours in the reinstallation work. Charles A. Neal, Jr. and Jane Osborn directed a Friends of the Coleman fund-raising drive to raise over $70,000 in donations from the community. The State Arts Council of Oklahoma awarded the 1995 Governor's Arts Award for Community Service to the "Friends" for this endeavor. Much appreciation goes to those who have contributed money, materials, time and energy to this project Thank you for your generosity and perseverance.

Today, the uniqueness of having an original organ in a movie palace draws people from across the country to witness this marvel. Welcome home, Mighty Wurlitzer!

About the Coleman Theatre

The Historic Coleman Theatre

The Coleman Theatre Beautiful, as it was originally named, was built by George L. Coleman, Sr. in 1929, at a cost of $600,000.

This opulent structure was designed by the Boller Brothers of Kansas City, Missouri. The exterior architecture is Spanish Mission Revival. Terra Cotta Gargoyles and other hand-carved figures adorn the building's facade. The elegant Louis XV interior includes gold leaf trim, silk damask panels, stained glass panels, carved mahogany staircases and decorative plaster moldings and railings. The original carpet carried in its weave the Coleman family crest.

Built as a vaudeville theatre and movie palace, the Coleman opened to a full house of 1600 seats, at $1.00 a seat, on April 18, 1929. Many early day stars, such as Will Rogers, Tom Mix and fan dancer Sally Rand have appeared on its stage as well as on its screen. Athletes Jim Thorpe and Andy Payne made appearances on the Coleman stage.

Theatre Improvements Miami, Oklahoma

Also in 1995, the City of Miami and Friends of the Coleman Theatre provided funds and in-kind services to construct two new elegant first-floor restrooms that met ADA guidelines.

'Visitors from 44 states and 26 foreign countries enjoyed touring the Coleman last year. Television crews from Germany and Japan have visited and prepared travel documentaries for viewing in their home countries. Network and independent companies from the U.S. have prepared video presentations for public broadcasting. Many tourists journeying along historic Route 66 visit the theatre as they travel through the Midwest. The theatre has become the #1 tourist stop in Miami.

The Oklahoma State Historical Society placed a Route 66 Mini-Museum on the Coleman mezzanine in 1996.

The Friends of the Coleman was founded to aid in the restoration process of the theatre. Their purpose is to "enlist support, preserve the memory and to promote the future of the theatre". To become a member or make a donation send a check to Friends of the Coleman, P.O. Box 269, Miami, OK 74355.

More Information on this theatre and organ

Article in the Ponca City News

Great article about the Organ, includes great pix

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