History of the Cole Memorial Building
by Karen Bye
This building was an important one in the civic life
of Pequot Lakes. It was built on land donated to the
town by AL Cole's daughter in memory of her father.
He had been a pioneer businessman, who is credited with
building the first store in town.
Work on the Cole Memorial Building was done by the WPA,
with Tom Chapin as General Building Foreman. It was
begun in 1936 and completed in 1937.
It was intended to be a civic center and it did serve
that function from the early time through the present
day. The building was on a large parcel of land that
could accommodate gatherings of good size, plus parking
for the horses and buggies. It was used extensively
by community groups for bazaars, festivals, picnics,
The interior had a 400 seat auditorium with a fully
appointed stage and two dressing rooms. Traveling entertainers
and speakers performed there in the early years, and
school graduations were held there as well, as the school
had no auditorium.
The building was heated by a coal furnace in the basement.
Along with room for coal storage, the full basement
also had two bathrooms with showers, which were available
to the public. Two meeting rooms were downstairs, as
well, and these were used by the Town Council and the
From the start, the building was expected to pay for
its own upkeep and that wasn't happening with the occasional
vaudeville show. A steady source of income was needed,
and in 1941 it was decided to turn the place into a
"show hall." This enterprise was spearheaded
by Chick Everhart and Henry Bye.
Stadium seating was installed, with cushioned seats.
The village paid for the seating and the Commercial
Club handled the remodeling. A projection room was built
and Jim Johnson signed on as projectionist. The story
is that the booth became so unbearably hot that he would
crawl through a trap door and sit on the edge of the
portico roof while the movie ran. Many local young people
from that era count as their first jobs either selling
tickets, ushering, selling popcorn, even cutting grass
at the Lakes Theater.
Business declined in the early 60s, and the theater
closed, but in its twenty years it contributed to many
civic improvements, such as paved streets and the funding
of a Tourist Bureau building and the Pequot Lakes Clinic.
Today, the Cole Memorial Building is leased by the Pequot
Lakes Area Historical Society. Their museum is located
in the basement and has been a labor of love for the
founding members of that organization during an arduous
The upper floor is home of the Senior Citizens Center
whose activities keep the old building alive most days
of the week.
Historical information taken from Les Tweed's, Boyhood
Memories, (available at the museum).
Arrangements to visit the museum at another time can
be made by calling one of the Board members. Click
this link for more contact information on the Pequot
Lakes Historical Society.