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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