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Tuesday October 21, 2014
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Historic Halls

 

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Grandiosely, the nineteenth-century showcases were usually called "opera houses"--though they rarely if ever hosted actual operas. The names conveyed a sense of elegance that allowed townsfolk to feel like cultured inhabitants of bigger cities.

In 1883 Sylvan Township built a new township hall in Chelsea. Not a modest wooden structure in the center of the township, as most such halls were, it was designed as a theater. Still in use today as the Potting Shed at 112 W. Middle, the hall had a stage at the north end with dressing rooms underneath. A steeply pitched balcony overlooked the main floor, which slanted toward the stage. Township functions, mostly those of the treasurer, were relegated to a small office in the front of the hall. Meetings and balloting spread into the rest of the building. For more than a century it was used also for performances and community events. The hall officially opened with a masquerade party, with music by Chelsea's Cornet Band.

In Dexter, Costello Hall's function as the town's stage was taken over in 1886 by the Dexter Opera House, a modest wooden building converted from a roller-skating rink. After running the rink for two years, tailor Adam Deckert and dentist Samuel Jenny had found it didn't earn them much profit, even with events like races, performances by a skating bear, and necktie parties--where young women made matching aprons and ties, and young men would randomly select a tie and be paired to skate with the matching woman.

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