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Source: Michigans Historic Sites Online
The Ramsdell Theatre is a rectangular red brick building topped by a low-pitched hipped-roof with a central dome. The theater building is joined to the adjacent Ramsdell Hall by a campanile tower. The facade is fronted by a projecting bay, fronted by a Doric portico and topped by a triangular pediment with block modillion ornament. Brick quoining, banding, and other Neoclassical designs decorate the exterior. The ornate interior includes oak and leather seats, gilt gold fixtures, and murals in the dome by Walter W. Burridge and Frederic Winthrop Ramsdell, the son of the builder.
The Ramsdell Theatre is among the finest turn-of-the-century small town opera houses in Michigan. The building features a unique movable paint rack, one of the largest grids in the nation, and excellent acoustics. Patron Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, one of Manistees first lawyers and civic leaders, hired Chicago architect Solon S. Beman to design the opera house and presented it as a gift to the city.
The Ramsdell Theatre opened in 1903 and operated until the 1920s when Butterfield Theaters bought the building for silent film showings. Acoustical difficulties prohibited talking films and the theater intermittently closed until 1943 when the city of Manistee acquired and reopened the building. Since 1963 the city and the Manistee Drama Association have held live productions at the carefully restored theater.