‘American Pickers’: How Mike Wolfe’s ‘This Place Matters’ Campaign Saved One Historic Ohio Theatre

by Matthew Wilson

“American Pickers” star Mike Wolfe loves to buy plenty of antique objects and artifacts. But he once saved a piece of history as well. The reality star started a campaign to save a historic theatre in Ohio.

Wolfe partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Together, they formed the “This Place Matters” campaign to save places and buildings of historical importance. This included the Historic Variety Theatre, located in Cleveland, Ohio.

Through the campaign, Wolfe urged friends and fans to advocate for buildings significant to their communities. The campaign hoped to save buildings with historic significance in their area. As a result, people across the country sent photos of buildings. These photos ranged from abandoned buildings in public places to old homesteads.

The campaign was a contest with the lucky winner getting a visit from Wolfe himself. As a result, the campaign chose the Variety Theatre as the lucky winner. But the campaign was successful in raising awareness for several locations.

Wolfe joined Cleveland officials at the historic theatre. The city officials gave Wolfe the entire tour of the once-proud theatre. Wolfe also addressed a crowd that gathered. The “American Pickers” star said he started his hobby and eventual career due to his passion for history. Like the objects and vehicles that Wolfe collects, buildings also have a history.

‘American Pickers’ Star On History

Some places are significant landmarks to important events and moments. Those moments could be lost to the sweep of time if we forget about them. Wolfe wants generations to come to enjoy their significance.

“Heritage tourism is one of the important things we can all lean into nowadays. This isn’t just a project for the neighborhood. It’s a project for the entire city of Cleveland,” he said, via Antique Archaeology. “When you walk into an old building like the Variety Theatre it’s something that never leaves you. You become a child all over again. You want to touch and explore everything. There’s so much of that wonder here. That experience is going to be had again thanks to the heartfelt commitment of this community.”

Wolfe became an honorary chairman of the Variety Theatre board. He became a part of the campaign to raise funds to restore the theatre to all of its glory. That restoration happened in 2019 as a result. Since then, Wolfe has continued to discuss his passion for history on “American Pickers.” Though these days, the drama behind the scenes gets more focus.

“No one has ever given up on this theater,” Wolfe said. “You have one or two people who truly believed in this and everyone around them said ‘ I want to be a part of that.’ That’s what ‘This Place Matters’ was about and that’s why this place matters.”