Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 Michigan Theater Previous Next
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Alexei289
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Username: Alexei289

Post Number: 1062
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.61.183.223
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 2:09 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I know this has probably been posted millions of times before... but I did a search and didnt come up with much.. I just recently read a book that had several pictures of the Michigan theater back in its heyday. Those pictures awestruck me pretty good...

Does anyone here have any more stashed away? Before it became a parking lot...

This theater for some reason really interests me.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1881
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.72.133
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 2:55 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Alexei289, Welcome to the club! The "hooked on the Michigan Theatre" fan club....

The (former) Michigan Theatre was arguably the grandest and most palatial space (in the European sense) that ever existed in Michigan.

If you took the Fox Theatre auditorium, and lopped off 10% of the total space off the left most part (nearest the sidewall) and then lopped off another 10% of the total space of the opposite wall, that 80% in the middle of the auditorium space would be pretty close to the actual dimensions of the Michigan Theatre.

There were 4,050 seats in the Michigan versus 5,048 of the original Fox seating (again 80%).

You see the Michigan was a somewhat narrow auditorium, and therefore had to be very deep and also very tall to maximize the seating. That's why the auditorium height is nearly identical to the Fox.

The Michigan Grand Lobby was a show stopper. At nearly 5 stories tall it was awesome. It had to be, in order to prepare you for the overpowering 9 story auditorium.

A year ago one of the theatre blog sites ask folks which Rapp & Rapp existing theatre was their favorite. Most folks said the Michigan, although some theatre experts think the smaller 3,800 seat Chicago Theatre was Rapp & Rapp's best work.

Theatre Historical Society comes out with an annual 30 page booklet on one particular theatre every year. The 1995 book is about the Michigan. Go check the Theatre Historical Society for more info.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1882
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.72.133
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 2:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I was just looking for that MICHIGAN WINTER WONDERLAND (or was it MICHIGAN WATER WONDERLAND) site, and I can't find it anymore. It had some Michigan Theatre pics. I wonder if they got shut down because they were using Theatre Historical Society and others pics without permission.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1883
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.72.133
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 3:10 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I just came across this from a British site:

http://www.buildingsrus.co.uk/ detroit/michigan_theatre/michi gan_theatre.html

It shows an interesting picture of the Michigan auditorium morphing back and forth from a theatre to a parking structure.

And the British author wrote this poignant little ditty about historic preservation in Europe vs. the USA:

"It struck me that this wouldn't happen in Europe. There would be a preservationist outcry,
a community effort, perhaps a council subsidy. But here in the wildwest of capitalism, nostalgia has no place. The capital has served its purpose. Next please. Here, in built form, is unfettered economic logic. And the space created by it is more viceral, more astounding, more nerve tinglingly unique, than many a conceited play of space and light by the hand of an architect."
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Fho
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Username: Fho

Post Number: 41
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 68.85.149.176
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 3:16 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here is a zipped file with a whole bunch of photos I've collected over the years, mostly from this message board. I don't know if they're copyrighted.

http://s48.yousendit.com/d.asp x?id=2ABQTKOH3CUEJ2IEUS67BHTIQ B
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1203
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.14.122.57
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:29 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here's the link to the Water Winter Wonderland page on the Michigan Theatre:

http://www.waterwinterwonderla nd.com/location.asp?ID=682&typ e=5

Better bookmark this site for future reference!!!
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 108
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.106
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 10:44 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Alexi-I was one of the last people to see the Michigan theatre in one piece, before the carnage began. I worked occasional jobs then with a friend who was in the projector sales/repair/installation business. We were given the task of taking the Simplex-XL projectors out of the Michigan booth, to be sent to a party in WI who re-packaged them into a modern platter system for some bland multi-plex. A company from California called "the Golden Movement emporium" bought the rights to take anything from the building that wasn't structural--in other words all the light fixtures, ornamental hand railings,sinks, even plaster work. The Michigan was a great loss, it was undeniably the most beautiful theatre in Detroit (and the state). At the time it occured, there was hardly a cry. The theatre had been used for the prior 5 years by a nickle and dime concert promoter as the leading hall for rock concerts. A generation of baby boomer rock heads just trashed the place in five short years. I was in the theatre in '74, then again in '77 for the projector removal, and the difference was shocking. As a very altrusitic teenager I would engage "adults" with my pro-Detroit, pro-old movie theatre enthusiasms, and when it came to the Michigan, the immediate answer was "those kids RUINED that place". Looking back now, that building was high and dry (dry basement, heating plant intact)there was no serious water damage and the trashing the rock and roll turds exacted would have been fixed without spending seven figures. This building, at the time of it's desecreation was in far better shape than the Capitol/Paramount/broadway capitol/grand circus was before MOT transformed it into the Opera house (a very worthwhile restoration, much appreciated), and 75 times better than orchestra hall was before it was restored. Those of us there that day were all part of the "Fox theatre ad-hoc theatre guerrillas" a small band of young guys dedicated to quietly doing good to keep that building sound and intact, in the face of an uncaring management. We viewed the loss of the Michigan as somewhat of a sacrificial lamb, and a warning sign for our efforts elsewhere. Luckily, things held on, then improved dramatically there, and we never had to invoke the battle cry "remember the Michigan, don't let this happen to the Fox"

(Message edited by 56packman on March 16, 2006)

(Message edited by 56packman on March 16, 2006)
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Toolbox
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Username: Toolbox

Post Number: 847
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.184.29.148
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 12:18 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, do you know Ron Hattner by any chance?
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 110
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.233
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 12:34 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

you need a...............

Does that answer your question?
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Outoftowner
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Username: Outoftowner

Post Number: 117
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.223.214.2
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 1:31 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think the Michigan Theater is cool, too. Even in its current condition it is fascinating. So many grand theaters have been completely destroyed, but the fact that this one still stands -- altered as it is -- as a reminder of what it once was is amazing to me. I wonder if there are any other movies that show the parking ramp -- 8 Mile, and lately The Island has scenes filmed inside the building. Old Cars Weekly published an article about the theater and the site's link to Henry Ford a while back.
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Toolbox
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Username: Toolbox

Post Number: 848
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.184.29.148
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 2:34 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

56packman


Does that answer your question?




Hell yeah it does! We know many of the same people then. I am a bit younger though.

(Message edited by toolbox on March 16, 2006)
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1885
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.186.121
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 3:54 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the link Kathleen. They are some pretty awesome shots of the Michigan!

Although one would think how could anyone in their right mind do such a thing to such a beautiful space, building owner Anthony Pieroni put it into perspective for me when I had a chat with him back around 2000.

He said had that space not been disemboweled, the entire building would be a parking lot today. The previous owners (Mr. Pieroni has only owned it since the mid 1990's) were faced with their major tenant that threatened to leave if the building didn't provide sufficient covered parking for their employees. As stated before, the original intent was to dismantle then entire theatre portion and use it for parking or a parking structure. But when structural engineers determined that do that threatened the structural integrity of the office portion of the building, the decision was to gut and reuse the theatre space as parking.

When I asked Mr. Pieroni if there was any danger of chunks of plaster falling on top of parked cars (or God forbid people), he stated that although plaster does fall (rarely), it is very light and flaky. This was confirmed by the Theatre Historic Society, who stated that the Michigan Theatre plasterwork is very thin. This was because a lot of fine detailing was put into the plasterwork (more like stenciling), thus negating the need for thick plaster, such as that in the Fox.

And there is another reason why the plasterwork will probably be suspended from iron rods above for many years to come. First of all the roof over the garage is well maintained to prevent leakage (one needs to remember that besides plaster the former theatre space has a steel framework that would rust were it not for a well maintained roof).

And also... plaster is NEVER heavier than when it is first installed in a wet state. Once the plaster dries, it is much lighter. As long as it does not come in contact with water (the bane of other theatres such as the Opera House and Orchestra Hall before they were restored) the plasterwork will remain pretty much intact. Even the effect of humidity is not as great as one would expect. Even the downtown restored theatres are hot and muggy on the inside in the summer when not in use (they're not always air conditioned!).
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3318
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 5:21 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Many many thanks to Gistok, Kathleen, and 56 Packman for your comments, research, and commentary. The pictures are amazing. Quoting Detroiter Ed Mc Mahon on the Johnny Carson Show,
"Right here in this one thread, EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about the Michigan Theater is right here."

Thanks, jjaba with Michigan Theater Memories.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 111
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.233
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 6:04 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok--I have been aboe the ceiling of the Michigan (back in '77 when we were pulling the booth) and have spent LOTS of time above the ceiling of the Fox (like when we lowered the ball in '78 and vacuumed the top off, and re-lamped it) and I can tell you that they are built the exact same way, and that the plaster thickness is comparable. All of the late 20's theatres, regarless of the architect, are pretty much built the same. Not so for the 'teens theatres. They look different, there is more wood used, the roof decking is often times wood. The "major tenant" of the Michigan building then was the Credit card association. Back in the primitive old 70's, when you made a credit card purchase at a store, the cashier would have to pick up the phone near the register, call a toll free 1-800 number and verbaly interact with an operator, who would take the card number, and purchase amount, process that through their computer (you could hear the key-clacking in the background) and give an approval code to the cashier. These operators were located in the Michigan Building, and they were the ones who needed the parking. The ultimate irony of this story is that within three yeas the industry developed the "swipe" magnetic strip and reader, and the Credit card association dismissed all of the operators, got out of their lease, and the whole thing was centralized elsewhere. Had they not leased the Michigan building space, the theatre and building could have limped along into the 80's, when things finally began to come around. And now you know the rest.................. (wait, I don't listen to AM, no Paul Harvey comments!)
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1887
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.186.121
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 6:29 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks Jjaba, I never tire of talking about the Michigan. Ironically it is probably more famous in its' current state than it would have been if left intact.

A couple of other things about the Michigan...

Originally the plans were to build the Michigan Building/Theatre on the entire block with a triple arched window (the Theatre Historic Society book on the Michigan shows an architects rendering). But the Brunswick Hotel and 8 other businesses on Grand River must have wanted too much money for their land. So the Michigan Building/Theatre only took up the eastmost 80% of the block. And yet within a decade all 9 of those other buildings were razed during the depression years, and reused as Michigan Theatre parking.

Of the 100 or so theatres that architects Rapp & Rapp (of Chicago) built, the Michigan was the 3rd largest (at 4050 seats). Their largest theatres were the 4381 seat Uptown Theatre (Spanish Renaissance style, still intact but closed) on the north side of Chicago, and the 4084 seat Brooklyn Paramount (Semi-Atmospheric style, a gymnasium and cafeteria today, but intact).

Of the 100 or so theatres that Rapp & Rapp designed, the vast majority were in their prefered French Renaissance style, with the Michigan being the largest of the group.

The late theatre historian (and founder of Theatre Historical Society) Ben Hall once said of the Michigan... "Rapp & Rapp built many theatres in their Royal French style, but it is doubtful if any were more opulent than the Michigan".
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3320
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:11 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The Michigan Theater is the onliest Rapp and Rapp Theater in Detroit. However, they did also design the Hotel Statler, recently destroyed.

The Michigan Theater was connected to the Bagley Avenue Bldg., now renamed the Michigan Theater Building.

When the Michigan was renamed as the Michigan Palace, in 1973, it was the host of rock 'n roll concerts of national quality. Players included David Bowie, Aerosmith, and Kiss, the latter of which recorded there.

The ticket booth of the Michigan is extant. As is the theater curtain and arch.

The building sits on the historical site of the first car built by Henry Ford, 1892.

jjaba.
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Goat
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Username: Goat

Post Number: 8265
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 67.71.56.83
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:19 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

..only in N. American society could a thing of such beauty be destroyed without a peep from anyone.
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Rsa
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Username: Rsa

Post Number: 791
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 70.236.180.106
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

bad jjaba! rapp & rapp designed the leland hotel (still there) not the statler. statler was design by george b. post and somebody else...
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3323
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

jjaba had just read that Rapp and Rapp designed the Statler. jjaba apologies to Rock Star Architect since jjaba values accuracy.

jjaba, Proudly Westside.
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3328
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 8:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The recent newsletter sent today by the Theater Historical Society of America listed the Statler by Rapp and Rapp at the tail of an article about the Detroit Fox. (C. Howard Crane, 1928) jjaba is sending them a blistering letter as we speak. jjaba doesn't appreciate being called out on this Forum for accuracy and he apologies again to RSA, et. al. who know their schitt.

The Detroit Statler Hotel was built by George B. Post, 1914.

jjaba.
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623kraw
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Username: 623kraw

Post Number: 843
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 68.41.224.200
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 6:40 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I heard or read that steps were taken so that the entire theatre could be restored to its original grandeur (molds were made, materials were saved, seats were put in storage, projectors and so on). Any truth to this?
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 113
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 24.172.179.131
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 9:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

623Kraw--non what so ever. Everything that was in the way was bulldozed into rubble. The seats on the main floor had been out since the Michigan Palace days. The balcony seats were dumpsterized. We took out the projectors and shipped them to fond Du Lac, WI. Sounds like a well meaning urban myth.
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Gwhobbies
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Username: Gwhobbies

Post Number: 58
Registered: 10-2005
Posted From: 66.208.225.165
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 10:04 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Uh, Gistok...No offence, but the roof of the Michigan theater is NOT well maintained. It was raining last week and water was pouring in places. Just FYI. That building is not what I would call "maintained".
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3335
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 10:14 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

623kraw, incredible. You win the Urban Myth post of the year award.

jjaba had heard that his Riviera Theater is also packed away and someday the entire theater will rise from the ground.

jjaba loves urban myths. Detroit has some doozies.

jjaba.
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Rsa
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Username: Rsa

Post Number: 792
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 70.236.180.86
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 11:52 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

hee hee. just bustin' your chops monsieur jjaba. rsa wishes he had half the knowledge of you. but i had to live up to my title (RockStArchitect). you give the fact-checkers at the THS hell!
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 114
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.106
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 12:15 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Jjaba-the basement of the Hollywood is still there, they could put it all back, too.
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3347
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 12:36 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

jjaba's Beverly and Westown theaters are tucked away in the basement of the Masonic Temple. Go look for yourself.

jjaba, ROTFLMJAO.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 119
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.233
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 6:03 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

From the WSU virtual motor city site: The Lobby of the Michigan, as the Packman saw it when his aunt took him there to see "Snow White" (1964 re-release)

Michigan Lobby
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3356
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 192.220.139.6
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 8:06 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This looks as opulent as the Joliet Rialto or the Los Angeles Theater downtown LA. Incredible memories come gushing into jjaba.

jjaba, Westside Memories.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1891
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.6.200
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 11:15 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gwhobbies, I wish you would have posted that yesterday. I went and visited Mr. Pieroni in his office today. I would have asked him about the roof. I parked in the theatre area, and spent about 20 minutes poking around after a long chat with him. Just an incredible space. I would love to get my hands on some pieces of the Michigan Theatre carpeting that was near the off limits elevator/staircase area.

According to Mr. Pieroni, Fnemenek was escorted thru the AAA building (on the Statler site) earlier this week. He hasn't reported back to us on Mr. Pieroni's claims to vandalism caused by the unsecured Statler when it was still standing. Frank, where are you.....

I did notice the refurbishing that Mr. Pieroni had done to the lobby area and Elevator doors. It is very interesting to see that the public area ceilings (and even elevator ceilings) match the French Renaissance architecture of the former theatre space.

Also, the broken pieces of the horses and chariots statue are still in some of the closed off foyer space.

I misspoke on another thread, saying that the basements were filled with rubble and sealed off. Not true. There is a lot of debris down in the mechanical space and bathrooms area, but it is still accessible and passable.

Also, even though it is a 13 story building, the elevator only goes to the 12th floor, althought the service elevator does go to the 13th. The 13th floor is used as storage area, and the building has tenants on all other floors.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1895
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.6.200
Posted on Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 1:56 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the nice pic 56packman.

Interestingly enough the mezzanine and balcony foyers looked down on the Grand Lobby from the right side of that picture. The left side was never accessible on those 2 levels, because there were only mirrors along that wall between the columns. Behind the mirrors was the outer wall to the building. Therefore those railings on left mezzanine and balcony levels were merely cosmetic.

Jjaba, good eye... the (much smaller, and different than the Michigan) Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet Illinois (called the "Jewel of Joliet") likely had many of the same ornate plaster molds that were used for the Michigan. They are both Rapp & Rapp designed theatres.

If anyone ever restored the Michigan, that would be the first place to look.

(Message edited by Gistok on March 18, 2006)
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3362
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 1:45 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the props Gistok. That Rialto-Joliet is an amazing place and nicely maintained, both as a theater and the office bldg. attached. Typical of many old theaters, it has been taken over as a performing arts center by a private-public non-profit. Other rennovations of the city-scape nearby make for a lovely setting. The Rialto was built as a grande palace in a small town, hoping to grow. What a treat and a vision since jjaba can easily compare it to major Chicago atmospherics.

jjaba hopes the owners of The Michigan know about the Rialto.

jjaba has had a recent flurry of emails from THS over their recent inaccurate newsletter column about Detroit. jjaba called them out for stating the Rapp and Rapp built the Statler Hotel (George B. Post, 1914) and for printing all the wonderful things Mike Ilitch is GOING to do. To THS, jjaba invoked Skipper's Rules about the Adams, et. al. Gistok might like to do the same.

jjaba, THS Member.
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Naturalsister
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Username: Naturalsister

Post Number: 521
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.42.169.65
Posted on Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 2:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Great thread guys, Thanks.

I have been fascinated by The Michigan Theatre Building since I turned 17 years old and started clubbin' downtown. I'll be 40 this year so this is awesome to get this much info on such a jewel that I had always wondered about.

Thanks for the great posts.

later - naturalsister
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Tony_pieroni
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Username: Tony_pieroni

Post Number: 5
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 199.72.183.243
Posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - 8:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks to gistok and 3WC for letting me know about this thread.

Alexei289, if you would drop me a note at Ste. 800, 220 Bagley, Detroit 48226 I will send you one of my remaining copies of the National Theater Historical Society's booklet on The Michigan Theater.You don't have to put your real name of the request.

Gwhobbies: you're mistaken about seeing rainwater water in the Theater recently. I put a new roof on the theater a couple of years ago.
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3422
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 2:45 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hey Tony, how about giving us back our theater.
Mike Ilitch can do it, so can Tony Pieroni.

Since VISA moved out, why do you need that kind of parking. Ilitch has plenty of lots now.

jjaba, Westsider.
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Tony_pieroni
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Username: Tony_pieroni

Post Number: 6
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 199.72.183.243
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 11:18 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Jjaba: The parking facilities, for use of my office tenants only, are full and there's a waiting list. Same for the overflow lot I lease across Clifford. If you want to move your business into the small amount of office space available, I'll guaranty you a spot.
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Cushkid
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Username: Cushkid

Post Number: 39
Registered: 08-2005
Posted From: 136.1.1.154
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 11:24 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Tony,
I think the question is would it be feasable for you to restore the Michigan Theatre and create enough revenue to compensate for leasing parking space elsewhere. I as a 23 year old would love to see the things that I missed due to my age. i think there is a viable market to compete against the Masonic and Fox, as a theatre patron I hate seeing shows at the Masonic and would love an alternative to cramped seating.
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Eric
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Username: Eric

Post Number: 374
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 35.11.210.161
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 11:56 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

You're deluding yourself if you think the the Michigan restorable. The restoring the UA a theatre that's intact would be very difficult and costly let alone one where nothing is left.
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Fury13
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Username: Fury13

Post Number: 992
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.222.11.226
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 11:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think the restoration of the Michigan Theatre is a nice, naive dream to have, but understand that the idea is totally impractical and not feasible from a businessman's point of view. You would either have to have a collaboration of massive investment (possibly public/private) or a "deep-pockets" individual to pull such a rehab off. It would not be a money maker -- certainly not in the short term. Such an operation would strictly be a labor of love and would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

In other words, it'll never happen. Enjoy the building the way it is.
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Tony_pieroni
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Username: Tony_pieroni

Post Number: 7
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 199.72.183.243
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 5:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A guy named Shepardson (?) who did the Fox as I recall wanted to see the theater several years ago. I told him a couple of people had suggested renovating it. He laughed and was, I believe, the first to tell me "there's not enough money in the world." He's correct. Even if one had the money it structurally could not be done. And if mit could, the office building would empty out for lack of affordable, convenient parking.
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Rsa
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Post Number: 799
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 70.227.85.198
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 5:37 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

ok all you pessimests out there (and respectfully to you mr. pieroni); it can be done. would it be very expensive? yes. is it structurally feasable? yes. here's the rub: is there a market for it? no.

i had the opportunity to meet the contractor who was in charge of the "conversion" several years ago. he felt it was such a shame to do that to the space (but hey a job is a job) he left everything that did not need to be taken out. hence, the pieces of curtain, carpet etc. structurally, if the foundations are in place for a three story parking garage, then it's feasable to rebuild the balcony (and, of course, the main floor). there are many examples of the plaster decoration used, many pictures, and even color remnants. and honestly, what's left of the michigan is in a lot better shape than the ua or even the opera house when it's renovation started. (and i'm not letting anybody tell me that the ua SHOULD be torn down, either)

but really, what it comes down to is demand. what would you have play at a 4400 seat indoor auditorium? there's a 2500 seat auditorum that's 30 years younger that's sitting vacant right now. and how often is cobo arena used?

so i propose that we leave it alone, enjoy it like it is, dream the dream, and there's always that possibility in the future...
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 127
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 5:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If you really want to restore a Rapp and Rapp palace, move to Chicago, and get busy on the Uptown, which has not suffered the fate of the Michigan.
www.uptowntheatre.com
That is do-able, and makes sense.
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3428
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 6:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Mr. Pieroni, what's the truth to rumors that parts of The Michigan are in storage? We need the truth from the horse's mouth. Also, where are the parts which were sold off?

jjaba.
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Dougw
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Username: Dougw

Post Number: 1029
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Posted From: 136.1.1.33
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 6:53 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Agreed with all the points above. It makes a lot more sense to focus on restoring something like the National or UA Theater first. (difficult as they may be) Those are the ones that are in more danger of dissappearing altogether if nothing is done with them. The Michigan Theater ain't goin' anywhere.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 128
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Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 6:59 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Jjaba, a California company called "the Golden Movement emporium" bought and removed all of the decrotave items from the Michigan. Nick George donated the furinture to the DIA(1968), and the music library was donated to WSU by George, also 1968, who pronounced it "a bunch of 19th century hooey" and threw it in the dumpster.
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 192
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Posted From: 71.65.11.254
Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 10:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I do know that the organ that was in the Michigan is sitting in peices in a downriver home. The guy had it working for awhile but got too old for the upkeep.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1910
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Posted From: 4.229.81.155
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 12:13 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

No, the Michigan Organ a 5/32 Wurlizer (largest of only three 5 manual Wurlizer organs ever built) is well maintained and sitting in a music studio attached to a house (mansion?) in Racine Wisconsin, its' location since 1955.

Maybe the organ downriver is from one of several other Michigan Theatres? There's a Michigan Theatre movie palace in Ann Arbor and also in Jackson. The Michigan Organ from Detroit is way too big for a home.

After studying the rebuilding of all the historic sites in Dresden Germany (after the Feb. 13, 1945 firestorm that rained down on Dreseden with allied bombs reduced everything down to the walls), I believe that the Michigan Theatre could be reconstructed. But at what cost?

When the disembowelment of the Michigan happened in 1977, the marble grand staircase was removed from the lobby, along with all the marble veneer along the lower lobby walls. 3 of the 4 lobby walls are intact. Only that facing the auditorium had all the plasterwork and flooring removed down to the bare framework.

The biggest task for restoring the theatre would be rebuilding the balcony and mezzanine levels, along with the balcony and mezzanine foyers. Recreating the wide span unsupported balcony would be the biggest engineering challenge.

The main floor foyer, tall mezzanine foyer and the balcony foyer (all 3 of which had plaster/glass walls and plaster ceilings) would have to be recreated. The staircases at the north (Middle St.) and south (Bagley Ave.) ends of the lobby are still intact. But one of the staircases from the Mezzanine Foyer to the Balcony Foyer would have to be recreated. The outside wall openings would have to be bricked up, and the auditorium side walls (the plaster shell) would have to be recreated. And that doesn't even touch the mechanical items (heating, cooling, stage rigging, etc) nor the more mundane items (removing rubble from basement areas, restoring restrooms, elevators).

As in the Detroit Opera House restoration, over 90% of the plaster in the Michigan would have to be re-cast. Ray Shepherdson (the fellow who Mr. Pieroni mentioned), the restoration consultant on the Detroit Fox and Opera House, said that it would take $2 million in plaster to recreate the auditorium shell and lobby walls/ceilings. That was in 1996, today it would probably cost double that.

The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet IL is the closest design among the many Rapp & Rapp (architect) designs. Other theatres that have similar plaster are the Paramounts in Seattle and Portland, the Chicago Theatre, and several Rapp & Rapp design Orpheum Theatres.

Chandeliers would have to be purchased/recreated. Also the ornate brass staircase railings, and mezzanine and balcony railings would have to be custom made. Ditto for the ornate brass holdout gates between the grand lobby and the main floor (orchestra) foyer. And 4,000 new theatre seats would have to be purchased, and foyer/lobby curtains recreated. And of course the existing parking structure would have to be removed, and the main floor re-graded. And maybe the owner of the Michigan's former organ would agree to one day sell it back to the Michigan.

How much would such an undertaking cost? Well the Opera House cost $42 million, which included a huge mechanical addition for the stage, rigging, rehearsal space and loading docks, as well as the replacement of 90% of the plaster, new stained glass ceilings, and new carpets and seat coverings.

I asked PW member Michael Hauser (former PW board member and former Theatre Historical Society board member), who is probably Detroit's most knowledgeable theatre expert (and currently works for the Opera House as activities director). His reply is that it would cost at least $50-60 million to restore the Michigan to its' former beauty.

It is highly unlikely that such an undertaking would ever happen, unless one day someone can make a business case for this. But, it would still be way cheaper than building anew.

P.S. It helps to have a copy of some of the Michigan Theatre/Building blueprints. Those for the Mezzanine and Balcony levels can be found in the Theatre Historical Society's 1995 booklet on the Michigan Theatre. That is the one that Alexei is getting from Mr. Pieroni ($10 if you order it from THS).

(Message edited by Gistok on March 22, 2006)
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 129
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 10:29 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Commodore64 and Gistok-the Michigan theatre Wurlitzer is in the Racine, WI home of Fred Hermes, and is in good, intact condition.
The instrument "stored downriver" could be a reference to the Hollywood Barton, which was in a Dearborn Heights home (dissassembled)for more years that it was in the theatre. It is now in the hands of someone who could put it together, given the right arrangement with a theatre.
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 194
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 66.73.225.162
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 10:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My Dad used to be a member at DTOS (Detroit Theater Organ Society) and I talked to a few people who knew stuff about the Michigan and UA. We were talking about both movie houses so I might have confused it with the UA's organ.

The story is, the guy Downriver got one of those organs and set it up in his house with limited pipes. Even set up partially, it was too much for the home, so he only turned it on to keep everything working. I guess the guy who has it hasn't messed with it for years due to his health.

The person at DTOS seemed like he knew what he was talking about, he could be mistaken. Anyway, if anyone wants a good time, the Senate is a great place to spend an evening.
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Dalangdon
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Username: Dalangdon

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 67.171.17.254
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 10:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Add to your estimations the cost of building a new, secured parking structure to replace the current structure in the theatre. One bright spot: If the theatre had a lot of evening bookings, you would see a lot more parking revenue (office workers by day, theatre patrons by night) :-)
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 195
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 66.73.225.162
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 10:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, you could be correct on that. I will ask about that one when I go again.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 130
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Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:02 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Commodore64-I've been in the TPO thing for 33 years, belong to DTOS (play concerts there occasionally) and know the local home installations. There is a guy in Taylor who had a smaller Wurlitzer set up and playing, could it be that one?
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 131
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Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok, the Michigan Wurlitzer was a 5-28 (not 5-32) from the factory, the first and largest of the three 5 manual console organs from Wurlitzer. Fred has enlarged it since the installation in his Racine home.
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Dalangdon
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Username: Dalangdon

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Posted From: 67.171.17.254
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:28 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Since the parking spaces are needed for the building, is there anyway that just the lobby area could be restored and used as a restaurant or function space (for things like weddings and social events)

It seems a pity that such a popular and prestigious building can't at least get some revenue out of an underused place while giving a nod to the historic nature of the structure.
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 196
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Posted From: 66.73.225.162
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, maybe.. I guess I should get my facts in order. I will ask again to clarify. Still, that guy is WI is lucky to have such a historic organ in his home.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 133
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.106
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:48 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Commodore64-No biggie. There are a lot of twisted tales that circulate through the Senate lobby--sort of like the Norman Rockwell picture of the gossip going around and being a complete suprise (having transformed) by the time it gets back to it's originator. There's always a slightly gothic twist to the tales of people who put pipe organs in their homes--fed partly by hollywood, and partly by the people themselves. Fact is, during the 50's and 60's the organs were available for purchase from many theatres for $200-$600. They were surplus equipment not unlike a company having an old 286 computer in some back closet. Many a "greatest generation" with the bug bought one, and installed it in his basement during those years. Kinda kooky, but a hobby nontheless. There were 50 home installation theatre pipe organs in area homes in 1960. There are about five today.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 134
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Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 12:29 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here's a link to the Michigan Wurlitzer now in Fred Hermes home.

http://theatreorgans.com/dtos/ Fred_Hermes.htm
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Toolbox
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Username: Toolbox

Post Number: 859
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.184.29.148
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 1:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here is a link to the Hollywood Barton.

56packman also knows where an organ from Saginaw is buried among Willy's Jeep parts.
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Tony_pieroni
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Username: Tony_pieroni

Post Number: 9
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 199.72.183.243
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 2:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dalangdon: Several years ago the area behind the MI Bldg was selected as the site of the new baseball stadium (subsequently relocated to the site of Comerica Park.) I conferred w/ a U. of M. architecture professor about utilizing the space you're talking about. She made it a class project and they came up w/ space for a restaurant extending from the front of the theater to the rear w/ a new area constructed over the present ingress/egress lanes in the parking structure. A glass wall would provide a view of the third floor of the deck, the ceiling etc. The numbers did not come close to working and anyway, the stadium was built elsewhere. I thought it was dumb idea but figured I had to explore possible development of the space.

Any architects out there? Anyone want to put a restaurant in there? Be my guest.
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Rsa
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Username: Rsa

Post Number: 803
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Posted From: 70.236.176.97
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 2:43 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

present! rsa = RockStArchitect. it's funny that you mention that charette mr. pieroni, i was jsut thinking about it and possible restaurant space. i would love to discuss the possibility of adaptive reuse, if you ever have some free time to postulate...

feel free to shoot me an email: rockstarchitect@aol.com
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1915
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.81.6
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 3:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

packman56, yes I knew that the Michigan organ was originally a 5/28. I didn't want to go too far off on a tangent explaining it in my "lengthy" post.

The other two 5 manual organs were both smaller instruments(5/21) and both in Chicago. The 3,900 seat Marbro Theatre (razed) had one, and the 3,600 seat Chicago Paradise (razed) had the other one. Lord knows where they are today.

Fred Hermes in Racine WI is getting pretty old by now (if he's still alive) because he bought the Michigan organ 60 years ago, back in 1955-56. He must have a pretty big house to have a basement as big and tall as is shown on the Theatre Organ website.

(Message edited by Gistok on March 23, 2006)
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 135
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Posted From: 129.9.163.106
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 4:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok--the Marbro Chicago 5-21 is now in the Providence center for the performing arts (RI) a restored movie palace. The Chicago Paradise
5-21 left the theatre in 1949, was purchased by Los Angles businessman Richard Vaughn, who installed it in his home and released LP's of it on his Hi-Fi label (1955-1960)featuring the Packman's boyhood hero and late friend George Wright. It has been in the Phoenix home of Bill Brown, who just passed away last month. He has willed the instrument to a new performing arts center to be constructed in Boston. The Packman played that box in 1985, a thrill.
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Dalangdon
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Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 66.54.213.11
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 4:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I should probably say right off the bat that I live in Seattle, and have never been to Detroit. I just like to check in here frequently and see what's up, so don't look to me to speak with any sort of intelligence. :-)

My idea for the lobby areas were nowhere near as ambitious as the proposal the architect had, but would probably be prohibitively expensive as well. My thought was to either restore the lobby area(as much as historicaly possible) as a "formal" event space, or go the other way, and keep the "ruined" feel (with the appropriate health and safety upgrades, of course), and use that as a concept for the space. After all, Detroit is known for their "ruins", it might be an interesting angle, either for upscale dining or a nightclub.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1918
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Posted From: 4.229.81.6
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 4:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56Packman, thanks for the info. IIRC the Providence Center was the former Ocean State Theatre, another Rapp & Rapp palatial design.

The Chicago Marbro was a wonderful theatre that had a "wedding cake frosting" facade made out of terra cotta (designed by Chicago architects Levy & Klein). The Chicago Paradise (only a few blocks from the Marbro), a "Second Empire Tour de Force", was a John Eberson design. On the outside it was labeled the "World's Most Beautiful Theatre", an assessment that anyone who has seen pictures of it, will agree. Unfortunately, the auditorium (a Renaissance style atmospheric) had horrible accoustics, which helped lead to its demise.
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3433
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 192.220.139.10
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 7:25 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Wonderful discussions. Gistok, ask your buddy Michael Hauser to stop calling The later Detroit Statler, a Rapp and Rapp bldg. The THS credited him with that incredible faux fas recently. His input was published in the latest newsletter.

jjaba.
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 197
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 71.65.11.254
Posted on Friday, March 24, 2006 - 12:07 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, thanks for the information. I guess I was a little out of touch with all of this organ stuff. It has been awhile since I visited the DTOS, you got me thinking about paying admission and going one of these days. Since my Uncle died about 15 years ago, I haven't been there since. My Great Uncle and Aunt are still members, but their health isn't the greatest as of late. I will always remember going there as a kid, it was fun times.

If I was born 50 years earlier, I would have bought one of those surplus organs. I love surplus items, and something like that would have fit my profile! The Michigan and old Fischer are wonderful and functional works of art, and it would be great to own such a thing. My Great Uncle has a Rogers, which is a decently sized organ and takes up a good portion of his living room.

Fred Hermes has one hell of a basement!


(Message edited by commodore64 on March 23, 2006)
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3434
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Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Friday, March 24, 2006 - 1:46 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Do you mean Fisher Theater?

jjaba.
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Commodore64
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Username: Commodore64

Post Number: 198
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 66.73.225.162
Posted on Friday, March 24, 2006 - 9:08 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Yes Jjaba, I was supposed to type in Fisher Theater, but at 11PM, I am not too sharp. haha
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 1950
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Posted From: 4.229.90.67
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 3:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Fnemenek...... Tony Pieroni told me that you got a private tour of the AAA Building (per his claims of vandalism from an unsecured Statler).... and what did you see?

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