Detroit Now & Then: Revival

Orchestra Hall Proscenium, 1970 and 2013

Though the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1887, it wasn't until 1919 that it found a permanent home in Orchestra Hall. Designed by theater architect C. Howard Crane, Orchestra Hall was regarded as one of the finest music venues in the city, elegantly styled and acoustically perfect. The DSO played at Orchestra Hall for just 20 years before financial problems forced the Symphony to move elsewhere and sell the building. Though it reopened as a popular black music venue called the Paradise Theater, that closed in 1951 and the building was left vacant. In the meantime, the DSO bounced between venues before landing in the Ford Auditorium in 1956, a structure originally built for public speaking and poorly-suited to orchestral performances.

By 1970, Orchestra Hall had been vacant for 20 years and had fallen into severe disrepair. It was slated for demolition to make way for a Gino's Hamburgers restaurant until members of the symphony stepped in and contacted the company. Not realizing the significance of the building, Gino’s actively worked with the symphony to save the building and eventually sold the property back to them. Restoration efforts had were about to begin in 1970 when the photo above was taken as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Original photo: October, 1970. Library of Congress
Current photo: November, 2013