519-609 East Liberty Street
Michigan Theater Building, 1927
Creator: Finkel, Maurice
The Michigan Theater Building was constructed in 1927 to house shops, offices, and a lavish theater with dressing rooms for performers. A red and gold Barton organ was installed to amplify the drama of silent films. Designed by architect Maurice Finkel of Detroit and built by Angelo Poulos of Ann Arbor in a Lombard Romanesque style, the complex consists of an 1800-seat auditorium and an office block of seven stores. When it opened January 5, 1928, the theater was the finest in Ann Arbor.
The facade's main section, a three-bay wide entry to the theater flanked by stores on either side, is complemented by the seven store fronts which are more simply constructed with a band of square-head double-hung windows topped by a continuous concrete lintel on the second floor. The stores immediately flanking the theater retain the arched window hoods of the theater itself. The original ornate marquee was replaced in 1945. An unfortunate remodeling in 1956 "modernized" the interior. The facade was refaced with black marble and imitation fieldstone trim. The Barton organ was restored in the early 70's by the Motor City Theater Organ Society, which sponsored occasional silent film and organ performances.
While celebrating its 50th anniversary, the owners announced they would no longer lease the theater. Plans to convert the interior to a shopping mall alerted citizens to the danger of losing the marvelous theater as well as the organ. After citizens voted support, the City of Ann Arbor purchased the theater in 1979. Six years later, a campaign to restore the Michigan Theater raised almost two million dollars. The entire lobby and auditorium portions of the theater were returned to their original glory. The theater is now a cultural and performing arts center, used by theater and other groups, the Ann Arbor Symphony, and for movies.
Go to the Michigan Theater web site...