Detroit’s Michigan Theater: A Most Beautiful Parking Lot

It was built upon the birthplace of the Ford automobile, so perhaps it’s fitting that Detroit’s Michigan Theater is now a parking lot – except that such a use seems to be such a terrible waste for such a stunning historic structure. Built in 1926 alongside the connected 13-story Michigan Building office tower, the 4,000-seat Michigan Theater has been left to decay, another casualty in Detroit’s long decline since its heyday as a car-manufacturing mecca.

(above image via: bourbonbaby)

(images via: wikipedia)

“It is not merely a theatre for Detroit,” John H. Kunsky, the theater’s owner, told The Detroiter in August 1926. “It is a theatre for the whole world. It is designed to be the great showplace of the middle west.” It was described in the press as “a jewel”, and “the world’s finest”. The auditorium featured 10-foot crystal chandeliers that hung eight floors above the seats, and the mezzanine was open to black-tie guests only.  But by the mid-1960s, the Michigan Theater was among dozens in the city to close due to dwindling profits, and though it was saved from the wrecking ball in 1967, its glory days were over.

(image via: decojim)

Ironically, one of the factors that forced the closure of the opulent theater was a lack of parking. The theater faced stiff competition from modern nearby theaters that offered plenty of parking space. After a brief interlude as a music venue, during which it drew some of the industry’s biggest names, the Michigan Theater was gutted. While the shell of the building remained intact, it was filled with a three-level, 160-space parking deck.

(image via: detroitderek)

One perk to the theater’s latest incarnation is that one need not be an intrepid urban explorer (which often includes law-breaking and physical danger) to get a good look at these modern ruins. A paltry parking fee will get you up-close-and-personal with peeling gilded walls, a crumbling ticket booth, the remains of an upper balcony and a shredded bit of red curtain. See more photos of the decaying interior at