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Restoring the historic Braumart

August 10, 2012
By LISA M. HOFFMANN - Staff Writer , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - Friends of the Braumart would like to see the historic downtown Iron Mountain theater renovated and operated as a dynamic art center.

An art center would embrace all arts and artists and provide cultural, educational and economic stimulus for Dickinson, Marinette and Florence County area.

One way the Friends of the Braumart are doing that is by hosting a fund-raiser next week.

Article Photos

Fans of the film “The Wild Angels,” starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, pose in front of the Braumart Theatre in 1966.

Andy Lo Russo, a celebrity-cooking icon, will feature a culinary and musical trip to Italy through food, wine and song at the Braumart Theatre, 104 E. B St., on Thursday, Aug. 16.

History of the theater

August E. Brauns purchased the property that was known as the Central House on East B Street and the vacant lots on the west from Joseph Cordy on Nov. 17, 1922.

The Colonial Theatre Co. announced on Feb. 18, 1924 plans for a combined theater, office and a store building for $250,000.

Foster Construction Co. of Milwaukee was awarded the contract on Sept. 2, 1924. Work began on Sept. 3, 1924.

Christened as the "Braumart" on Feb. 9, 1925, the theater name was derived from the names of the two principal owners, August E. Brauns and Martin D. Thomas.

Strains of The Star Spangled Banner from the orchestra and organ on April 21, 1925 marked the formal opening of the new Braumart theater.

A total of 2,000 people witnessed the opening, and the main floor of the big auditorium which could seat 1,000 people, was completely filled 10 minutes before the start of the first show.

Details of the Braumart theater:

- No balcony.

- Four carpeted aisle-ways provided easy access to the deeply cushioned seats.

- French doors leading off the long foyer, which was arc-shaped, and three arched windows fitted with stained glass divided the foyer from the auditorium.

- Pilasters along the side walls were highly decorated and carried the well-known sign of the theater - the mask of comedy and drama.

- Two large grills, one on each side of the stage, concealed the large chambers in which the organ equipment was installed.

On Jan. 28, 1925, a Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones electrically-operated pipe organ purchased from Rudolph Wurlitzer Co.

was installed at the theatre. It was equivalent to a 35-piece orchestra.

- A proscenium arch represents an exceptional example of interior decorating, opens upon the stage, which was only a few feet wide as the theatre was to be devoted entirely to motion picture programs.

- A projection booth was located on the second flood of the building and access was gained only by using the stairway that leads to the offices in the front of the structure.

One of two motion picture projection machines used at theater was displayed at the Parent Clothing Company. The latest model, Simplex, was manufactured by the Precision Machine Co. of New York. and was used by nearly all the larger theaters in the country.

- Includes a group of well-lighted offices and two stores, occupied by Riley & Lundell Haberdashery and the Stronge & Warner Millinery Co.

On May 22, 1925, construction started on a two-story building to be erected by the Brauns & Thomas Co. in the vacant lot next to the theater building on East B Street. The 25x120 foot lot was to house a building the same size as the Braumart and be the same type of building.

The first floor was for stores and the second floor was for offices, seven total. This building was known as the Colonial theater.

The Colonial opened on Aug. 3, 1925 and improvements to the Braumart were made.

Improvements to the Braumart

On July 29, 1935, improvements at the Braumart included tearing down the electrical signs, the marquee, display frames and ticket office, and a complete remodeling of the entrance.

A new glass front, finished in royal blue with chromium trim, was built at the Braumart. The new ticket office was constructed of blue glass and chrome and extended to the sidewalk line.

A new marquee of enameled steel with clusters of electric lights and neon tubing overhead was also installed.

The theatre name was inscribed in electric lights across the front of the marquee in a combination of both neon and silhouette letters.

Display frames or attraction boards at either side of the theater lettering were set an angle and visible from both the front and sides.

Silhouette letters stood out from the background of illuminated opal glass, and the marquee was considerably larger than the former one.

The lobby was finished with a blue glass wainscoting, terminating in a chrome trim, and large circular French mirrors were set in the side walls.

A new suite of restrooms reached by a wide, curving stairway extending down from the foyer led directly into a carpeted lounge fitted with modernistic chrome furniture.

Fund-raiser planned

"A Taste of Italy" will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16.

This is where Chef Andy will demonstrate his cooking techniques, and members of the audience will be able to enjoy samples.

Social hour is one hour before the show.

For $100, guests have limited seating on stage with the chef, and this includes food and wine tastings.

For $75, guests sit at Bistro tables in front of the stage; samples of food and wine included.

For $35, guests get all other seating, dessert and wine samples.

Tickets are available at the Dickinson Area Partnership office, 600 S. Stephenson Ave., Iron Mountain.

Proceeds from this event will go to Friends of the Braumart, a non-profit organization, supporting their project to purchase, restore and operate the historic Braumart theater as a community cultural center.

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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