A Small Town With Big Dreams
Restoring a historic theatre with an assist from State Farm
It was the Roaring 20’s and George Bohm, from small town Albion, Michigan, was living the dream. A very troubadour existence, traveling the country as a clarinet player with the famous John Philip Sousa Band.
His love of music expanded to other arts. He fell in love with silent films and the ornate movie houses that showed them to the world.
As a gift to his beloved community, he opened the Bohm Theatre on Christmas Day, 1929 and operated the theatre until his death 30 years later.
Like many theatres in small town America, it was the center of the community. A place for families and friends to gather, be entertained and have fun.
But after George’s death, and a revolving door of new owners, the cherished theatre closed its doors in 1991.
“Albion residents were saddened by the closing,” Mary Slater, longtime resident and business owner, said. The community was aware of the financial realities but it was hard to see something tied to so many good memories and a real centerpiece of community shut down.
In the 90’s American commerce changed drastically. Factories and mom and pop stores closed. The dot com bubble boomed – then bombed, leaving small towns like Albion in the rear view mirror. The beautiful Bohm theatre was decaying and presumed beyond repair.
That was until The Friends of the Bohm Theatre was formed and purchased the Theatre in 2011 with the sole mission of restoring it to its original beauty and grandeur.
Work on the once majestic theatre took many years, but the doors finally opened -three months ahead of schedule- in 2014. The passionate group of volunteers received the necessary funds for the restoration from many sources, including State Farm. The town rallied together to win a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant through an online voting contest, a great example of the Albion community spirit.
“Well-wishers had an opportunity to gaze about the theatre. The restoration really was a monumental success - a magnificent masterpiece replicated to achieve its original homage,” said Nancy Doyal, Executive Director of the Bohm.
The hard work continues to pay off. In May 2015, the Bohm Theatre received the prestigious Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.
The Bohm has become a place for the community to gather once again but now in a slightly different way. There’s still new movies to entertain residents but it’s also available for live music and community events that are often free to the public. From Blues at the Bohm, a live musical jam session, to a series of weekly matinees for local kids over summer break, the Bohm is once again the jewel of Albion.