Legendary Detroit venue to be demolished due to fire

JOELTLE515 at aol.com JOELTLE515 at aol.com
Fri Aug 13 20:49:40 UTC 2010

In a blow to Detroit's  preservationist community and rock history buffs, 
the city appears set to lose  another storied landmark. 
The Eastown Theatre, a  onetime movie palace and concert hot spot on Harper 
near Van Dyke, has been  targeted for demolition by the City of Detroit 
following an early Monday  fire. 
The theater itself was  not substantially damaged by the blaze, which 
destroyed an adjoining apartment  wing. But it makes up the bulk of the vacant 
structure, which was condemned and  affixed with a demolition notice Tuesday 
The notice indicates  that the building could be razed within coming days. 
"It's another sad  chapter in a long list of historic structures that have 
been left for dead,"  said Michael Hauser, a Detroit theater historian. 
Attempts to obtain  comment Wednesday from multiple city officials were 
The Eastown complex,  which opened in 1931, played a variety of roles 
during its eight-decade life. It  was a 2,500-seat cinema through the 1960s, home 
to a performance arts group in  the '80s, site for techno raves in the 
'90s, headquarters for a Christian  ministry in the '00s. 
But for Detroiters of a  certain age, the Eastown will be most remembered 
for its high-flying rock scene  in the early 1970s, when it noisily succeeded 
the Grande Ballroom as the city's  go-to rock venue. 
While the Grande had  captured the flower-power spirit of the '60s, the 
Eastown embodied the grittier,  harder-edged vibe of the era's evolving rock 
and drug culture. Amid the venue's  ornate interior and lush blue seats, 
touring acts such as the J. Geils Band, the  James Gang and the Who were booked 
alongside local stars such as Bob Seger, Ted  Nugent and the Stooges. 
The Eastown quickly  earned a notorious reputation, targeted by city 
officials and the news media for  overcrowding, hard drug use and vandalism. The 
venue was shut down by the city  in 1971, and reopened for a brief spell two 
years later. A 1973 Free Press  article described the scene during a concert 
by Joe Walsh, when "the sweet,  pungent smell of marijuana, popcorn and 
sweat mixed with the blaring rock music  and shouts." 
"I remember going in as  a kid and being shocked. It wasn't that communal, 
family-oriented feel like the  Grande," recalled Martin (Tino) Gross of the 
band Howling Diablos, who attended  Eastown shows during his high school 
years. "It was a scarier neighborhood, more  ominous. The music was fantastic. 
But the Eastown was like going into a hell pit  of rock 'n' roll." 
Detroit  preservationists have noted that several exterior fixtures 
disappeared from the  building in recent months. 
The building was most  recently owned by Deeper Life Ministries, a 
Christian group that housed  residents in the apartment wing until 2004. 
"If this truly puts an  end to any renovation possibilities, it's just 
sad," said Karen Nagher of  Preservation Wayne. "It's really a shame to lose 
_Death  knell for rock 'n' roll landmark | freep.com | Detroit Free Press_ 

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