Roaming the Magnificent Ruins of Detroit’s Abandoned Eastown Theater

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned-3 (Image: memories_by_mike (see website), cc-nc-nd-4.0)

When the Eastown Theater opened on October 1, 1931 with the movie Sporting Blood, starring Clark Gable, Detroit was at the height of a golden age. The boom years of the 1920s had encouraged savvy theatre owners to bring movie palaces to the city’s neighbourhoods and the Eastown, located on Harper Avenue, became one of four palatial suburban cinemas. On the west side was the Grand Riviera, while the north got the Uptown and southwest the Hollywood.

But as the Motor City’s fortunes waned over the decades, the Eastown’s golden age also came to an end. The venue closed in 1967 and reopened two years later to embrace a new epoch – as one of the city’s most notorious rock venues.

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned-4 (Image: memories_by_mike, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

Like many of Detroit’s former movie palaces and concert halls, such as the Grande Ballroom and the Michigan Theater (now a car park), the Eastown saw its ornate fixtures ripped out to accommodate live music from many of the best known acts of the day, including the Kinks, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Yes, Fleetwood Mac and more.

But unlike the Grande Ballroom’s hippy vibe, the Eastown was rough. Drug overdoses were commonplace and it wasn’t unusual for the venue, which had a legal capacity of 1,727, to draw crowds of 3,000.

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned-5 (Image: memories_by_mike, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

Protests from parents and others living in the largely residential area during the 1970s eventually forced the city to intervene, and the Eastown was closed due to a combination of drug offences, gang crime and health violations.

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned (Image: Rick Harris, cc-sa-4.0)

The venue reopened several times over the decades, but its respite was always shortlived. By the mid 1990s the Eastown hosted raves and was finally taken over by a church group, who abandoned the neglected building and its associated apartments – which at the time housed church members – after 2004.

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned-2 (Image: Rick Harris, cc-sa-4.0)

Unable to find a buyer, the Eastown fell into decay. The end finally came on August 9, 2010 when a fire ripped through the abandoned theatre, gutting the its apartments and reducing half the building to rubble.

eastown-theater-detroit-abandoned-6 (Image: Bob Julius, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

Situated in one of the city’s most blighted neighbourhoods, surrounded by vacant homes and shops, restoration is no longer an option. Last month the Motor City Muckraker reported that the grand ceiling had finally collapsed. It’s now only a matter of time before the storied Eastown Theater is finally torn down forever.

Keep reading – Explore 29 Abandoned Music Halls, Ballrooms, Theatres & Movie Palaces


About the author: Tom





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