Tibbits Opera House, built in 1882, is the second oldest operating theatre in Michigan. Designed by Detroit architect, Mortimer Smith, the stand-alone opera house with its exquisite French Second Empire façade was far more impressive than other theatres of the era. The fact it survives and continues to operate as a theatre servicing southern Michigan and northern Indiana makes it even more rare today and worthy of preserving.
In the 1930s, the opera house was converted into a “modern” movie theater with new décor on the interior, new seating and a white tile Art Deco façade. By the 1950s the theatre was closed. It fell into disrepair and was in jeopardy of being torn down. The Coldwater Players, the Sweet Adelines and other community groups rallied to save the theatre and a grassroots effort was begun. In 1962 the Tibbits Opera Foundation and Arts Council, Inc. was formed and purchased the building. Efforts through the next decade were focused on getting the theatre fixed up and operating with no consideration of historic preservation. The result is a 1960s interpretation of Victorian décor with red flocked wall paper, wood paneling, stucco ceiling and conventional theatre seating. A horseshoe-shaped balcony, decorative box seats and proscenium arch maintain the original character and suggest the elegance which remains hidden.
In 1998, efforts to restore the theatre to its original architectural grandeur began with a feasibility study. Design Development plans were completed in 2002. Construction of a handicap accessible entrance, restroom and the addition of an elevator were completed in 2005. Completed in 2013, the façade is fully restored to its original 1882 splendor. The project received the State of Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, The MHPN Gem Award, the Association of Building and Constructors Excellence in Historic Restoration Award, the North American Copper in Architecture Restoration Award and the Branch Area Chamber of Commerce Community Project Award.
Tibbits Opera House serves as the arts and cultural center of Branch County and the surrounding area. The intimate 499-seat theatre offers nearly-perfect acoustics and great entertainment year-round. Tibbits produces a professional summer theatre program which USA Today called one of “10 great places to see the lights way off Broadway.” Through the rest of the year Tibbits presents professional touring artists, children’s programs, art exhibits as well as community arts and cultural events.
Tibbits Opera House has completed the first three phases of restoration. With the completion of the third phase, the newly restored 1882 façade stands as a testament to the organization, the board, volunteers, the skill and craftsmanship of those involved in the project, and the determination of a community to fully restore and preserve the theatre for generations to come. Through the restoration process Tibbits has demonstrated the value of preserving these buildings of the past.
Nearly $3.4 million has been invested in the Tibbits Opera House restoration to date. As Tibbits continues efforts to restore the theatre, it is bringing attention to the community and particularly the historic downtown.
Learn more about Tibbits
Click on the links below to visit the Branch District Library website, where the following materials are available as PDFs.
- A History of the Tibbits Opera House 1882-1904 Carolyn L. Gillespie
- The Tibbits Opera House:1912 Stephanie D. (Hemker) Burdick
- Saving the Tibbits Opera House: From Wrecking Ball to Restoration Stephanie D. (Hemker) Burdick
Tibbits Opera Foundation & Arts Council, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. As the center for the arts in Branch County and the region it strives to provide a variety of cultural activities and opportunities and provide a stage for other arts organizations and citizens.
Thousands of tourists, area residents and nearby community residents attend plays, concerts, summer professional theatre, and community events at Tibbits every year. The theatre generates over $1,500,000 annually into the local economy, is the community stage for Branch County, Michigan, and is an important regional venue for experiencing live, cultural and theatrical productions.
Mission: Tibbits Opera Foundation and Arts Council, Inc. strives to engage all in the support of arts, culture, education and the preservation of the historic opera house.
93 W. Chicago Street
Coldwater, MI 49036
Open 9 – 5 Mon.-Fri.
14 S. Hanchett Street
Coldwater, MI 49036
Open 1 hour before show time
Summer hours 9 – 5 Mon.-Fri., 9-12 Sat
GuideStar Financial information, including the most recently filed 990 for Tibbits as well as other non-profit organizations is available through Guidestar.
Director of Operations
Facility Director/Technical Director
Assistant Facility Manager
Now Hiring (See Job Description)
Director of Audience Services
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
J. Richard Colbeck
TIBBITS OPERA FOUNDATION IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER AND PROHIBITS DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT OF ANY KIND.
“Tibbits is committed to the principle of equal opportunity for all employees and to providing an environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions at Tibbits are based on business needs, job requirements and individual qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran or disability status, family or parental status, or any other status protected by state and federal laws. Tibbits will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on any of these characteristics.”
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, US Dept. of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210; call (800) 397-6251 (voice), or (202) 693-1337 (TTY); email OFCCP-Public@dol.gov.
In June 2018, Tibbits Opera Foundation was awarded a $14,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC) to create “A Treasure Reborn:The History of Tibbits Opera House.” The goal of the project was to create a museum-quality display so community members will have a better understanding and appreciation of Tibbits, which will in turn hopefully translate into more community support to help Tibbits fulfill its mission.
A research, design, and fabrication team consisting of Tammy Barnes, Stephanie Burdick, Matt Biolchini and Brandon Apmann worked from the time the grant was awarded until the unveiling of the project in January of 2019 at Tibbits’ Annual Meeting.
We invite you to take in the exhibit in the lower level of the art gallery as well as in the upstairs main lobby. While 136 years of history have been condensed into one exhibit, it’s just the beginning. Though key points of Tibbits history are displayed on the walls, the kiosk in the lobby will be an ever-evolving display of information. This display focuses on the chronological history of Tibbits’ management, architectural changes to the structure since 1882, and Tibbits’ place as a cultural and community center.
Tibbits Opera House is proud to be the center of arts and culture for Branch County and the surrounding region now and as it once was. Grant support allows Tibbits to offer quality arts and entertainment year round, from professional Summer Theatre or Entertainment Series to community events, and in this case, allows Tibbits’ patrons the opportunity to enrich their lives by connecting to their heritage and the history of this glorious opera house.
Tibbits is constantly in the news! To read our press releases,
Tibbits Talk PodcastListen to Tibbits Talk podcast interviews with Ken Delaney and Tibbits staff or representatives or individuals involved with community shows. You can listen to Tibbits Talk live on Tuesday mornings by tapping this link WTVB AM 1590 Delaney in the Morning.
2019 Episodes•Oct 15, 2019 -Tirsha Odisher – Tibbits Volunteer Opportunities •Oct 1, 2019 – Angie Washburn – 40th Annual Benefit Auction •Sept 24, 2019 – Matt Biolchini -Classic Film Series: MonsterFest 4 •Sept 17, 2019 –Mardra Thomas and Diane Pridgeon -Smith Memorial Concert •Sept 10, 2019 – Jennifer Barnaba and Michael Motkowski – Next to Normal •Sept 03, 2019 – Matthew C. Scott and Stephanie Burdick – Next to Normal •Aug 27, 2019 – Christine Delaney – Tibbits Summer Theatre Recap •Aug 20, 2019 – Tirsha Odisher – TYA Auditions •Aug 13, 2019 – Max Gonzalez – See How They Run •Aug 6, 2019 – Beth Conley – See How They Run • July 30, 2019 – Julia Salatti – West Side Story • July 23, 2019- Rhys Scheibe – West Side Story • July 16, 2019 – Sean Noonan- Tibbits Summer Theatre • July 3, 2019 – Chad Tallon-Tibbits Summer Kids Workshop • June 2, 2019: David Ossman-Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat • June 18, 2019: Gloria Logan-Summer Theatre • June 11, 2019: Matthew Scott-Summer Theatre • June 6, 2019: Amy Crabtree- Tibbits Golf Outing • June 4, 2019: Chris Vachon – Roomful of Blues • May 28, 2019: Tirsha Odisher – Summer Youth Programming • May 21, 2019: Matt Biolchini – Classic Films Mystery Night • May 7, 2019 Stephanie Burdick-School Programming • April 30, 2019: Alejandro Quintanilla-El Ballet Folklorico-Cinco de Mayo • April 23, 2019: Addie Noyes Spotlight on Teen Talent Show • April 16, 2019: Charles Burr-2019 Popcorn Theatre • April 9, 2019: Jocelyn France-Campfire Stories For The New World • April 2, 2019: Matt Biolchini-Outer Space-Classic Film Series • March 14, 2019: Cast of Disney’s Aladdin Jr. • February 26, 2018: Matt Biolchini-Classic Film Series-Musicals • February 18, 2019:: Stephanie Burdick-School Programming • February 5, 2019: Matt Biolchini-Academy Award Nominees-Classic Film Series • January 22, 2019: Keith Call-Classic Stone Live • January 15, 2019: Rick Merrill & Christine Delaney-Annual Meeting & Historical Display • January 8, 2019: Matt Biolchini- Classic Film Series – John Carpenter
From our Patrons
” The production [of Joseph…Dreamcoat] was, in the words of my 14 year-old grandson, “AMAZING.” Not only was the acting, singing, and dancing up to your usual Tibbits high standard for excellence, but the set was extraordinary! I especially appreciated the lighting, the creative design and the use of levels, space and light effects…The three of us were delighted to witness this outstanding production — and I think my grandson is “hooked” on theatre for life.” -Dr. Byron Bond
“We have had season tickets to summer theatre for years and having moved from Coldwater three years ago, we just about didn’t renew this year, until we saw your lineup of plays. Then there was no question about renewal, we had to renew! And boy are we ever glad we did! Last night’s production was the absolute “best” that we’ve seen at the Tibbits in all the years we’ve been members. The cast, the dance routines, the singing all excelled… you have brought all aspects of quality theatre together and have produced one we’ll always remember. It sure made the hour drive up and back very worthwhile.” –Mike and Nancy Stevens
“TYA has been a fantastic opportunity for my kids to grow in confidence! And reading her script gave my reluctant reader a meaningful “real reason” to practice reading every day! We love Tibbits!” -Jessica Witmer
“Tibbits Opera House has opened up a variety of avenues for me. As a young child watching the Nutcracker I was able to envision a world of transformation from ordinary to extraordinary. It fueled my imagination and inspired me to take an everyday toy and create my own masterpiece. There was something about the grandeur of the theatre itself and the elite actors/actresses that allowed the classic tale to make such a profound impact on me… Theatre brought us into a world of imagination where we were able to think deeper…Altogether Tibbits Opera House has made a significant difference in my life and the lives of many others. It is a staple memory, and I wouldn’t be who I am without it.” -Carlee Dock
“I learned to sew, use power tools and be a fearless performer at Tibbits, and tell my cast (maybe too many )stories about my amazing experiences at Tibbits in the 60s. We have a family cottage at CW lake, I often plan my summer visit around your show schedule. Love! Love! Love! Tibbits!” -Martha Reynolds
From our Volunteers:
“I volunteer at Tibbits because someone once told me, ‘Once you’ve performed on the Tibbits stage, the place stays with you forever.’ It’s true, Tibbits grabs onto your heart and never lets go. I love that place! I want to help keep it successful and thriving so future generations can enjoy it too.” -Brandi Killian
“[Tibbits] is a fantastic place for young people to discover and develop their gifts. The TYA production posse is also a creative, supportive bunch. Magic happens here!” -Tammy Nohr
“I volunteer at Tibbits because…. Tibbits has always had a place in my heart from the first time I walked through the doors 30 plus years ago!” -Angie Washburn