June 12, 2012 Chris Wall

Before and After: Elegance Reversed

This spectacular, ornate downtown Detroit movie theater, which is now…wait for it…a present day parking garage, is a picture perfect example of what can befall extraordinary architecture when neglect and disinterest overwhelm.

In America we don’t always value our architectural history or heritage. Why is that?  Landmark status can literally save our most beautiful buildings from the wrecking ball. Grand Central Terminal is a well documented example of that. Saved from certain demolition at the figurative zero hour. Also well known is the story of the sad final days of the original Penn Station; an extraordinary building in every way and a truly classic example of how selfish self interest superseded every other possible consideration. A massive soaring structure of iron and glass, knocked to the ground in a display of total disregard.

These before and after images of the Michigan Theater in Detroit, built in 1926, are a vivid indictment exposing massive neglect and a total disinterest in preserving our great American architectural history. No question regional economic realities play a major role. Originally built with an interior opulence rarely seen in America, it must have been truly something to behold; extraordinary craftsmanship at the highest levels of skill, glamorous, beguiling and dazzling. To see it presently in such a sorry tattered state, a parking garage no less, broken, decaying and neglected is a crime and a beautiful glorious building lost forever.



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