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Saturday April 19, 2014
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Historic Halls

 

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Two years earlier, John Costello had converted the third floor of his general merchandise store into a 300-person hall. It hosted a wide range of events--a lecture on Indians by Captain C. Lewis (who claimed to be General George Custer's scout and interpreter), a demonstration of velocipede riding by a Detroit man, a performance by the Bohemian Glass Blowers.

Besides the out-of-town entertainment, the hall also provided a venue for local musical and theater productions, military and Masonic balls, and other community events. Musicians sometimes played to crowds on Main Street from an iron balcony.

The balcony was eventually removed as unsafe, and by the 1880s the hall itself was closed to the public because, with only one exit, it was deemed a fire trap. (Today it's the storage space above the Dexter Bakery and Hackney Ace Hardware.) But by then, similar halls had opened in Chelsea and Saline, and Dexter got a larger place for touring shows, concerts, and local events.

Long before the mass media, these were the towns' centers of entertainment and community life and the forerunners of twentieth-century movie theaters, places where the wider world came to the small towns of western Washtenaw County.

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