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Cheboygan Historic Driving Tour
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As a site that has focused on the arts and entertainment since 1877, the Cheboygan Opera House has had a turbulent history. This Victorian theater has been twice rebuilt after fires razed the buildings and was renovated and rebuilt after being condemned. Overcoming many obstacles, the Cheboygan Opera House has been a historically significant site in Cheboygan for over 140 years.

Cheboygan Opera House ca 1907

Facade, Mixed-use, Door, Arch

Opera House Postcard

Architecture, Property, Facade, Brick

Old Picture of Opera House

Architecture, Neighbourhood, Facade, Urban design

Recent Opera House

Architecture, Leaf, Facade, Road surface

Opera House Stage

Amber, Arch, Circle, Stage

Opera House Seating

Hall, Theatre, Concert hall, Amber

In July of 1877, a local lawyer named George Bell brought an idea for a town hall to the Cheboygan Village Council. This wooden structure would be two stories tall and 40 by 70 feet. It would include spaces for the council chambers, a police station, a fire engine room, and an opera house. The village council members voted to approve the plan on August 4th, 1877. The building was completed on December 22, 1877 and included council rooms, an elevator for the fire hose, a jail, a stage, and a gallery. The interior had no curtains, chairs and almost no decorations. The Cheboygan Opera House has been an important part of the area’s art community ever since.

On December 22, 1886, the original building was completely destroyed in a fire. Immediate plans were made to rebuild, due to its popularity. A new three-story brick and sandstone building was built at a cost of $35,000 and opened on July 30, 1888. This new building was again destroyed in a fire which occurred on October 19th, 1903. The original building plans were used for the reconstruction in order to preserve the acoustics in the theater. It reopened for a third time on December 19, 1904.

Many nationally known acts performed here over the years, including Annie Oakley, Buster Keaton, The Kingston Trio, Donny and Marie Osmund, Roy Clark and Florence Henderson. As the popularity of movies increased in the 1960’s, the quality and frequency of the acts diminished. The Opera House portion of the building was condemned in the 60’s after it had fallen into disrepair. Parts of the ceiling had fallen in and destroyed the city’s police car. Ellis Olson, the founder of the Cheboygan Historical Society, worked with the city council to research what it would take to restore the building. In 1974, the city passed a 15-year millage to help restore the Opera House. With the help of a federal $1.7 million grant and $650,000 in donations, the Cheboygan Opera House opened again on April 4, 1984 and continues to be an important part of Cheboygan's community.

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

“Cheboygan Opera House in Cheboygan, Michigan.” Visit Petoskey, Michigan - Visit Petoskey in Northern Michigan,

Hahn, Kortny. “Cheboygan Historian Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award.” Cheboygan Daily Tribune - Cheboygan, MI, Cheboygan Daily Tribune - Cheboygan, MI, 27 Nov. 2016,

“The History of the Opera House.” Home of the Cheboygan Area Arts Council, 20 July 2020,

Image Sources(Click to expand)

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

“Cheboygan Opera House.” Cheboygan Opera House - Cheboygan MI,

SuzieM. Cheboygan Opera House, 1 Jan. 1970,