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.
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!
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.
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.
Great article about the Organ, includes great pix