Calumet set to rock n roll once moreAugust 6, 2018
By OLIVIA INGLE
JASPER — Its fate has been decided. The historic Calumet in Jasper will once again come to life.
Built in 1941, the building at 2210 N. Mill St. has been a dance hall, skating rink, a restaurant and a bar. Now, it will be a venue for weddings and other events.
Owners Larry and Jamie Lillpop of Newburgh will host an open house at the venue from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and the public is invited to attend. There will be live music, food from local caterers and soft drinks. Bridal vendors will also be on hand, and the Lillpops will begin taking reservations for the venue at that time.
“We’re excited to see people’s reaction when they see what’s been done,” Jamie said. “They can enjoy it (the Calumet) all over again.”
Larry bought the 14,000-square-foot building in December 2016 after purchasing the neighboring Calumet Lake and house properties in July 2015. A contractor for nearly 20 years, he could see that the property had good bones (and he knew its history in the community), but it certainly needed some TLC.
The cleanup and restoration process began and the property officially went back on the market in October of last year. In addition to the Calumet, the property includes a newly remodeled five-bedroom, three-bath home and a lake. It all sits on nearly 22 acres.
The property was on the market until early this year, but never found a buyer. So, the Lillpops decided they would open the famed venue themselves.
“I didn’t realize the attachment this building had to the community,” Larry said, adding that he’s received hundreds of phone calls and emails since a Herald story ran last September about the restored property.
“Just hearing the stories going back generations, I realized this building is worth more to them than to me monetarily,” he said. “We’re going to continue its more than 70-year tradition and maybe youth will get the chance to experience great times like us old folks got to enjoy.”
According to Herald archives, the property’s history goes back to May of 1899, when a group of local businessmen chartered the Calumet Lake Corporation for the purpose of creating a man-made lake in Jasper to be used for recreational purposes. Construction started immediately and was completed the next year. The lake became a popular recreation spot. A board of directors oversaw its operation and maintenance.
But the corporation was dissolved in 1914 and the lake was drained two years later and became farmland.
In 1937, former mayor John Lorey’s son, Edward Lorey — who would also one day be Jasper’s mayor — built a home on the land. Three years later the lake was refilled and Lorey built the Calumet dance hall and a hotel — now the Camelot Inn Motel — adjacent to the lake. The Calumet became a popular entertainment venue and in 1954, Lorey sold it to Ed and Rosie Rees.
The couple met at the Calumet and it was their life’s work up until Ed’s death in 2002. Rosie, who is known for her locally famous pizza recipe that’s now made at the Schnitz Brewery & Pub, continued to operate the Calumet’s dance hall, restaurant and bar until it became too much work to run without her husband. She sold the property to celebrity impersonators Steve and Helene Crews in 2007.
The Crews operated the business as the Calumet Lake Tavern for a few years, although it’s unclear how long. According to the county’s GIS Map, they sold the property in May 2015. Evidence of the business on Facebook ends in May 2012. Snyder Rentals owned the building for a while before Larry took possession.
Larry’s goal throughout the restoration of the Calumet was to “keep the historic nature of the property and try to salvage as much of the original architecture as we can.”
The front of the building has been restored to look similar to what it did years ago. Even the neon sign that once hung on the building shines again. A new deck with seating sits on the east side of the building, overlooking the lake.
Inside, the front room has a newly built oak bar and stone fireplace. The dance hall’s nearly 80-year-old oak floors have also been restored and the building’s oak beams are exposed for all to see. The original stage — where hundreds of bands have played — still sits along the room’s far wall. The bathrooms have also been modernized, as well as heating, air and electrical systems.
Jamie figures the venue can accommodate upwards of 700 guests.
Both she and Larry are excited for the public to see their “labor of love” and to hear more of their stories at the open house.
“You see that young sparkle in their eye,” Larry said of when people talk to him about the Calumet.
Jamie added: “This is all about letting people enjoy it again.”
After the open house, the Calumet will officially reopen for business with the lighting of the neon sign at 9 p.m.
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