53 Years Ago Today

Historic Detroit posted on Facebook today that the Michigan Theater, at 238 Bagley Avenue, began its march into history on this date fifty-three years ago by showing its last movie. The entry reads, "On this date 53 years ago, the final movie was shown at the Michigan Theatre in Detroit. It would become a concert venue called The Palace before having its seats ripped out and being turned into a parking garage."


Michigan Building Parking Structure.
Photo by Dan Austin, Historic Detroit.

You read that correctly. The movie palace, the only theater in Michigan designed by Rapp & Rapp, once was a 4,000 seat display of opulence and grandeur. (The rare, five-manual, Wurlitzer theater organ was sold to Fred Hermes of Racine, Wisconsin in 1956 where he installed it in his home.)

After being used (unsuccessfully) as a dinner and a movie theater, it became a rock 'n' roll venue where vandals sealed its fate. A three-story parking garage was built inside the old theater, the ceiling still showing its days as one of Detroit's most opulent theaters.

Historic Detroit also points out that the site once was the location of Henry Ford's home. The home included a small building where he built his first car, the Quadracycle, in 1896. (Mr. Ford later moved the building to his Dearborn museum.) Only in Detroit could the site of the first Ford automobile be turned into an automobile parking lot.

(For more about the Michigan Theater, see Dan Austin's feature article Michigan Theater and photos of the beautiful theater Michigan Theater Old Photos on the website of Historic Detroit.)

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