Wakefield Theater

Lake Shore Drive,
Wakefield, MI 49968

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To honor the youth who were summoned to World War I in early-1917, the City of Wakefield, Michigan unanimously decided to do something after the war that ‘would keep fresh in the minds of the younger generations and others to follow the deeds of valor on the battlefields of France’. It was agreed that some kind of lasting memorial should be established to honor those sacrifices that were made in order for democracy and free government to survive on this earth. The people of Wakefield considered that the beautiful tribute to those who served during the Great War was typical of the spirit of patriotism and progress that the town possessed in abundance at that time.

It was decided that a memorial building was the best tribute, but not just any building voiced the community – it was to be ‘the best that could be built.’

In 1924, the 52,000 sq. ft. Wakefield Memorial Building was completed in a town with a population was 4,152. With a price tag of $400,000.00, construction of the building entailed an enormous amount of effort and sacrifice by the citizens of Wakefield. What Wakefield lacked in size it more than compensated for in determination and ambition. Like other towns at that time, Wakefield gave until it hurt during the war and now that it was over, they continued to do so. It was a common saying in Wakefield at that time that perhaps it was ‘the smallest city in the United States with the largest memorial building.’

The Memorial Building housed a large theater with balcony.

The Wakefield Memorial Building, one of Wakefield’s most important assets, will be re-born. After the building suffered years of neglect, Mr. Marvin Suomi, a graduate of Wakefield High School, will construct a new building better suited for the community of Wakefield today. The current building is structurally unsound and in a serious state of disrepair. Estimates to restore the current building exceed $10 Million. A new, smaller building will serve as an architectural landmark and gathering place for the community of Wakefield. It will house the City offices, the City library, multi-purpose event space, a pool, a sauna, and possibly an indoor theatre and incubator space for new industry.

In August 2008 the O'Brien Stained Glass Co. (Rollingston, MN) removed what remains of the 12 stained glass windows in the theatre auditorium of the Memorial Building. The windows will be sent to O'Brien’s shop for restoration and will be incorporated in the new building in some way. Among the windows were four "figural panels" depicting the military during World War I. The remaining eight windows included patriotic and American Legion logos, but lack human figures.

Contributed by Robert Cox

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Robert Cox
Robert Cox on August 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

The building is still there awaiting renovation. It’s located on M-28 (Lake Shore Drive) on the North and West, Kuivinen Street to the South and Smith Street to the East.

The theater seated 1100, not 1200. I started going to the theater in the 1960s to watch movies. I remember seeing Fred MacMurray in ‘The Absent Minded Professor’. The last movie I saw there was in the late 70s; we went nearly ever Friday. Our senior class High School play, ‘Prime Time Crime’ directed by Mrs. Grace Graves was performed on stage there in 1979.

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