ABANDONED MICHIGAN: The Historic National Theatre, Detroit
The National Theatre in Detroit is the last remaining piece of Detroit’s first theater district.
Located at the corner of Monroe & Farmer streets, Detroit’s National Theatre opened as a vaudeville house back on September 26, 1911. Upon its grand opening, it was suited to seat up to 800 patrons.
In the late 1910s, other nearby theaters started showing motion pictures, which added to the dying out of vaudeville. Seeing the writing on the wall, the National was turned into a movie theater.
Unfortunately, the National couldn’t compete with other venues, and it didn’t take long for the theater to turn to burlesque shows. The name was changed to the National Burlesk Theater, doing good business through the 1940s and 50s.
By 1970, live burlesque was a dying fad and the live dancers were soon replaced by adult films. Neighboring businesses began shutting down one-by-one, and the National finally closed its doors in 1975, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The surrounding empty buildings were all demolished, but the National Theatre was left standing…where it remains to this day. The outside still looks fairly impressive, but the inside is a different story, peeling & cracked paint, crumbling plaster, parts of the ceiling falling, no seats left in the balcony, raggedy screen curtain, and items like tiles, equipment, and artwork have been stolen.
Take a look at the photos below!