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  1. #26

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    Just found this pic (that a friend took) of the Clifford side of the UA Building, partly obscured by the Michigan Building. You can see the new (mid 20th Century) brickwork of the 4th and 5th floor, as well as the patches of missing bricks from the 6th-18th floor. This is the most damaged side of the office tower.

  2. #27

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    Well since I've had way too much caffeine tonight...

    I'll share some info on the Detroit United Artists sister theatre in Los Angeles.

    The Los Angeles UA was built a year earlier than the Detroit UA. It was the first forray of Detroit theatre Architect C. Howard Crane into building a west coast theatre, and also his first attempt at an exotic theatre.

    Personally I think that he was a little bit over the top on the Los Angeles UA. The exterior looks somewhat like an overdecorated wedding cake. See 1st attached pic, a colorized historic postcard.

    I think that Crane learned to control his more garish impulses by 1928 when he finished the Detroit UA and later that year the Detroit Fox (with the St. Louis and Brooklyn Fox Theatres coming online in 1929).

    The exterior of the Los Angeles UA had Gothic detailing that looked just a little bit too much like it belonged on a church, rather than an office building. The 2nd attached pic shows a photo of the theatre entranceway in the office block, and sort of shows what I mean.

    The interior of the Los Angeles auditorium had a "cave Gothic" look to it, where the detailing of the organ screens reminds one of stalagtites. The detailing is so busy that it is not easy to focus on it (3rd image)

    Compare that detailing to a closeup of the organ screen of the Detroit UA (4th image), and you can see that the Detroit theatre has crisper, richer detailing.

    Anyway, the Los Angeles UA is located in downtown LA on Broadway St., in LA's theatre district. It is used today as a church, and is well maintained.

    Downtown LA's theatre district has a lot of unrestored theatres... but they never had to deal with the thaw/freeze cycle nor burst frozen water pipes ruining plasterwork that Detroit theatres have had problems with, so they're not in bad shape (mainly peeling paint and some plaster damage from minor earthquakes). Many of the LA unrestored movie palaces are still open and show Spanish language movies today.
    Attached Images Attached Images    

  3. #28

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    Gnome, I know that horsehair was used for the ceiling of the main banking hall at the Guardian Building to remove the echo from the vast chamber. But I was not aware of its use in movie palaces (or Orchestra Hall). Ditto for the use of straw. I'll have to ask Michael Hauser (co-author of the Arcadia book on downtown movie palaces) about that one. Even when PBS had a special about the magic of the sound of Orchestra Hall, they didn't mention either horsehair or straw.

    From what little I know about acoustics... the "sounding board" or area above the procenium (stage) arch throws sound out in many directions into the acoustic plaster shell of the auditorium. Movie palaces may possibly contain either of the 2 ingredients that you mentioned Gnome... but there were quite a few movie palaces that were built that had horrible acoustics.

    Atmospheric theatres are especially notorious for not-so-good acoustics, partly because of the flat curved ceilings. Theatres with a lot of jagged or angled plasterwork were better at acoustics, since it has a tendency to bouce the sound around the room. The sounding board above the Detroit Opera House stage is especially well suited to this end.

    But even a lot of detailing in the plasterwork were no guarantee of great acoustics. The Detroit Fox is a good example of that. It's acoustics are just so-so.... mainly because it is such an enormous cavernous space.

    One other thing Gnome... La Scala in Milan has magnificent acoustics... of that there is no doubt! But it does have one problem that many of Detroit's movie palaces don't have... and that is poor sight lines. When you stack 6 rows of opera boxes one above another in a horseshoe shape at the back of the hall... it has a tendency for a lot of seating with poor sight lines (especially those one the sides that are closer to the stage). But the balcony overhangs that are common to Detroit's movie palaces means great sight lines for most balcony patrons.

    The one major exception to this is the Masonic Temple Theatre. It is built in a "U" shape instead of a "fan" shape. So of the 5000 seats in the house, the 600 on either side of the stage have poor sight lines (as do those in the back of the house behind support columns) and are rarely ever used, which is why the actually used seating count is only 4404.
    Last edited by Gistok; July-18-09 at 01:03 AM.

  4. #29

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    Gistock, love reading your theater stuff. I must beg forgiveness if my post hinted at any first hand knowlegde about the plaster make-up of the UA. That is not the case.

    I dated a one-legged Italian girl for awhile and her off-the-boat grandfather told me about doing the straw trick in the plaster work at Orchestra Hall and what is now called Music Hall.

    After rehabbing a number of older homes, I personally know that horsehair was a standard plaster additive. Not for its sound deadening properties but rather as a bonding agent for the "scratch" or bottom coat of plaster. Some people call it the "key" coat because it oozes between the gaps in the lathe and "keys" or locks itself in place. The horsehair just helped the plaster to interlock together.

    Once the scratch coat was installed it was roughed up by scratching or combing little grooves in the wet plaster, then another layer called the brown coat, which is uncombed, followed by a thin finish coat of non-horsehair lime plaster were applied. In cheaper homes, the scratch coat was not combed. It was allowed to dry and then thick paper was applied and served as the final surface. If you ever walk into an old house and see verticle lines where paper edges overlapped, you can be pretty sure behind that paper is a scratch coat of horsehair plaster. That doesn't mean that fancy homes didin't use paper, just not the kind of paper used in cheaper homes. The economy paper was rather thick and served to cover the inperfections of the sandy scratch coat.

    In some places around the country, asbestos was used instead of horsehair ... and the building was sold as being fireproof. A big selling point in hotels of a certain era. Always good advice to have your plaster tested if you are doing any repairs ... as well as a word of caution for all those lovers of urban exploring.

    So, that is my Cliff Claven tid-bit for the day.

  5. #30
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    Nearly every piece of plaster I have salvaged from theatres, churches, buildings, and homes has horsehair or straw in it.
    These images are of a column capital from St. Thomas the Apostle.

  6. #31
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    These are of a panel from a square column capital from the JL Hudson building.

  7. #32
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    This is a finial from the lobby of the UA.

  8. #33
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    These are from St. Cyril Church.

  9. #34
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    These last are from the Ramona Theatre.

  10. #35
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    And before anyone flames me for having "stolen property", all of the buildings these items came from have been demolished except for the UA. That piece had already fallen and would have turned to cottage cheese by now if I had not removed it. So take your pick, landfill, mush, or on display for others to enjoy....

  11. #36

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    Illitch Holdings is making The United Artist Building a " PREMIER DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY" to those who want to lease it in which someone will not lease it.

  12. #37
    dexterferry Guest

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    "And before anyone flames me for having "stolen property", all of the buildings these items came from have been demolished except for the UA."

    yeah, but obviously they weren't demolished when you stole them. what else do you have hidden away for the enjoyment of your private guests? you sound like that WARD guy justifying his vandalism. don't get me wrong: I don't think there's anything all that terrible with what you've done, but shut the f--- up with the justification. you stole them: the fact that the buildings came down doesn't change that fact. you stole them from the building owners and you stole them from the public had some opportunity arisen for preservation. I often wonder how many assholes have pieces of detroit's irreplaceable history squirreled away in their ugly suburban bungalows.

  13. #38
    Stosh Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by dexterferry View Post
    "And before anyone flames me for having "stolen property", all of the buildings these items came from have been demolished except for the UA."

    yeah, but obviously they weren't demolished when you stole them. what else do you have hidden away for the enjoyment of your private guests? you sound like that WARD guy justifying his vandalism. don't get me wrong: I don't think there's anything all that terrible with what you've done, but shut the f--- up with the justification. you stole them: the fact that the buildings came down doesn't change that fact. you stole them from the building owners and you stole them from the public had some opportunity arisen for preservation. I often wonder how many assholes have pieces of detroit's irreplaceable history squirreled away in their ugly suburban bungalows.
    I agree with everything in your post except the bolded statement. It is terrible. Imagine a what if scenario if these buildings weren't cannabilized?? Would they still be there? Could they have been spared the wrecking ball? I think a tipping point of restoration vs. demolition is pushed along toward the demolition side by actions like this.

  14. #39
    dexterferry Guest

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    all I meant by that is that I hesitate to get too angry about what happens to detroit's buildings (I get a lot more angry about indifference/violence to people). so some loser pulls down some plaster to hang on his chinese drywall, that's a small act of violence in a city plagued by far worse.

    That said, I call bullsh-- on Krawlspace ever giving those elements back. It's really brave coming on some anonymous forum showing off stolen goods and claim you'd give them back if anyone ever wanted them. How is Ilitch going to contact you "Krawlspace"? all of this is besides the point, as Stosh suggests, criminal behavior like those only encourages these buildings to be torn down (and provides Krawlspace with the convenient but essentially bankrupt justification for his criminal acts).

    I am so sick of graffiti taggers, scrappers, (sub)urban explorers, and architectural thieves and their various excuses and justifications for what is undeniably criminal behavior. man up and own what you do: no one is saying you are going to get arrested, but stop acting like a bunch of heroes for this retarded sh--. your petty little victories may make you feel like big men, but in the end the petty sh-- you do makes the city worse for the rest of us. Grow up.

  15. #40
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    See? I knew it would happen...
    First of all I live in the city of Detroit and have for my entire life. I own my own home here. I'm not some transplant. Not that that gives me any cred or bragging rights, but just wanted to clarify.
    Second, every one of the buildings I have taken these items from was slated for or in the process of demolition, EXCEPT for the UA. The UA piece was on the floor. I didn't rip anything down. It was the only thing I took from the building besides photos.
    Third, why would anyone need to contact me to return anything? If the building was getting rehabbed, I would probably know, and take it to them. The fact that it has never happened to any building i have taken plaster from so far isn't my fault, and you are baseless in calling me a bullshitter.
    Fourth, I have never broken into a building in my life. I either secure permission from the owner, the demo crew, or go in a way that was already opened. I know that last way qualifies as trespassing, and I will admit to being guilty of that. So what?
    Fifth, I do not destroy anything. Never threw a rock, never tagged a wall, never set a fire.

    If you think I'm wrong, that's cool. Your opinion is exactly that. Call bullshit, or tell me to grow up or be a man. I couldn't care less what you say up there on your high horse. The vast majority of damage I find in these buildings is from the elements, not people. As for me, I would much rather save what I can from impending destruction instead of standing outside and watch the wrecking ball turn it all to dust and lament that I never got to see what it looked like inside.
    I live in the city, I pay taxes, and I go inside abandoned buildings.
    So I guess that all I do is make the city worse for the rest of "us".

  16. #41
    Lorax Guest

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    Krawlspace, I'm definitely on your side. I've been liberating things from doomed buildings, either with the permission of the owners, or, during demolition. I have never gone in and removed pieces from buildings that were simply open to scavenging, for no other reason then I was too chickenshit. More power to you.

    If it weren't for people like Krawlspace, we wouldn't have any shred of evidence other than photographs that these places even existed. I loved the Ramona Theatre, by the way, and was there when it was demoed about 30 years ago. The Grand Riviera was it's sister theater, which came down not too long ago.

    Until Detroit, it's slumlords, and it's police get their act together, then it's open season as far as I'm concerned. I say the Abyssinian Church on Woodward should be either sealed shut or stripped by those who will preserve the artifacts. The city should be doing it to buildings they own as far as I'm concerned.

    Refer to my thread on the Book Building and it's golden cherub clock hanging from the lobby ceiling. Let's see it that makes it to the end of the year. Tick tock, tick tock.....

  17. #42
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    Thanks Lorax...
    Funny you should mention the Abyssinia/Woodward Presbyterian church.
    I was thinking about that very building while writing my last post.
    Beautiful church with a huge, gaping hole in the roof. Nothing destroys plaster and wood faster than water. But there it will sit, melting, with all it's former grandeur pooled up on the floor. But it's people like me who are responsible for its (and apparently the entire city's) demise.

  18. #43
    Lorax Guest

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    Your welcome, Krawlspace.

    I have a fantastic scroll in carved limestone from above one of the dozens of 20 foot arched windows of Rose Terrace in Grosse Pointe, a lead stairway finial in the form of a Grecian female from the Wesson Seyburn estate, among other things. I did have dozens of items from churches, and mansions both in Detroit and the suburbs, but either sold them or gave them away during frequent moves over the years.

    There is (or was) a grouping of incredible plaster heads and other items from some building sitting in that Knightsbridge Antique Mall, which I believe is in Livonia or Farmington, can't remember which! I was there last month and saw them, really great.

  19. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by gnome View Post
    In some places around the country, asbestos was used instead of horsehair.
    Most of the country, including Detroit. You can expect that certain vintages of plaster will contain about 1% asbestos, which is a lot. It is in a very dangerous form. Gnome, it wasn't used for fireproofing (and would not have fireproofed plaster). It was used only for structural reinforcement (tensile strength) in the brown coat. They may have advertised it as being fireproof, but asbestos was the hot technology of the 19th and early 20th centuries (it has been used for thousands of years). They would have said it would let you walk on water.

  20. #45

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    Lorax, although the Ramona (which I went to as a child) and the Grand Riviera (also at times known as the Riviera)... looked like twins from the outside, they were quite different inside.

    The 1925 buiilt Grand Riviera was by famed "atmospheric" theatre architect John Eberson. Eberson built the 2,786 seat Grand Riviera with a "Mediterranean Village" style to the auditorium sidewalls. And it had a large balcony. It was Detroit's finest atmospheric theatre (runner up had to have been the surviving Redford Theatre, a Japanese atmospheric).

    Atmospheric theatres had a blue painted flat curved ceiling, with all the ornate plaster detailing around the procenium and sidewalls to make it seem like you were in some exotic ancient courtyard once the house lights dimmed. Many atmospheric theatres even had machines that twinkled lights and clouds onto that nighttime sky to make the effect even more real.

    Here is a link showing the beauty of the atmospheric interior of the Grand Riviera... sadly pounded to rubble in 1999.

    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage...pe=1&maxCols=4

    As for the smaller Ramona... I vaguely remember that all the seating was on the main floor, so that

    As for the 1929 built Ramona, it seated 2,020 and was not an atmospheric theatre. It was designed by the rather obscure architectural firm of Kohner & Payne. Sadly it was pounded to rubble in 1978. It had a beautifully detailed Mediterranean style auditorium:.

    http://www.waterwinterwonderland.com...?id=736&type=5

  21. #46

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    Lorax, although the Ramona (which I went to as a child) and the Grand Riviera (also at times known as the Riviera)... looked like twins from the outside, they were quite different inside.

    The 1925 buiilt Grand Riviera was by famed "atmospheric" theatre architect John Eberson. Eberson built the 2,786 seat Grand Riviera with a "Mediterranean Village" style to the auditorium sidewalls. And it had a large balcony. It was Detroit's finest atmospheric theatre (runner up had to have been the surviving Redford Theatre, a Japanese atmospheric).

    Atmospheric theatres had a blue painted flat curved ceiling, with all the ornate plaster detailing around the procenium and sidewalls to make it seem like you were in some exotic ancient courtyard once the house lights dimmed. Many atmospheric theatres even had machines that twinkled lights and clouds onto that nighttime sky to make the effect even more real.

    Here is a link showing the beauty of the atmospheric interior of the Grand Riviera... sadly pounded to rubble in 1999.

    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage...pe=1&maxCols=4

    As for the 1929 built Ramona, it seated 2,020 (all on the main floor) and was not an atmospheric theatre. It was designed by the rather obscure architectural firm of Kohner & Payne. It was pounded to rubble in 1978. It had a beautifully detailed Mediterranean style auditorium:.

    http://www.waterwinterwonderland.com...?id=736&type=5

    In a sense, the Grand Riviera and Ramona were like an enormous pair of bookends, one anchoring Grand River on the west side, the other Gratiot on the east side... in the same sense as the large elegant mansard roofed Montogmery Wards stores anchoreing each street on Grand River/Greenfield and Gratiot/7 Mile Rd.
    Last edited by Gistok; July-19-09 at 12:39 PM.

  22. #47

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    Gistok, most of the Riviera was destroyed in 1996 when they tore down everything but the facade. I was down there, and one of the guys said that they were saving it. But then a week later the facade was down too.

  23. #48
    Blarf Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by dexterferry View Post
    all I meant by that is that I hesitate to get too angry about what happens to detroit's buildings (I get a lot more angry about indifference/violence to people). so some loser pulls down some plaster to hang on his chinese drywall, that's a small act of violence in a city plagued by far worse.

    That said, I call bullsh-- on Krawlspace ever giving those elements back. It's really brave coming on some anonymous forum showing off stolen goods and claim you'd give them back if anyone ever wanted them. How is Ilitch going to contact you "Krawlspace"? all of this is besides the point, as Stosh suggests, criminal behavior like those only encourages these buildings to be torn down (and provides Krawlspace with the convenient but essentially bankrupt justification for his criminal acts).

    I am so sick of graffiti taggers, scrappers, (sub)urban explorers, and architectural thieves and their various excuses and justifications for what is undeniably criminal behavior. man up and own what you do: no one is saying you are going to get arrested, but stop acting like a bunch of heroes for this retarded sh--. your petty little victories may make you feel like big men, but in the end the petty sh-- you do makes the city worse for the rest of us. Grow up.
    Bitching about recovering broken pieces of plaster that would have been tossed in the garbage during a restoration? Grow up.

  24. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by Huggybear View Post
    Gistok, most of the Riviera was destroyed in 1996 when they tore down everything but the facade. I was down there, and one of the guys said that they were saving it. But then a week later the facade was down too.
    Thanks Huggybear, I thought it was earlier than the 1999 date posted on the website comments (I thought 1995)... but I couldn't remember.

    Sadly both Grand River and Gratiot were stripped of their most prominent buildings (movie palace and department store) from their outlying stretch of roadway in Detroit.

  25. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by dexterferry View Post
    "And before anyone flames me for having "stolen property", all of the buildings these items came from have been demolished except for the UA."

    yeah, but obviously they weren't demolished when you stole them. what else do you have hidden away for the enjoyment of your private guests? you sound like that WARD guy justifying his vandalism. don't get me wrong: I don't think there's anything all that terrible with what you've done, but shut the f--- up with the justification. you stole them: the fact that the buildings came down doesn't change that fact. you stole them from the building owners and you stole them from the public had some opportunity arisen for preservation.

    I'm going to back up Krawl on this one. I too have pieces salvaged from St. Thomas and St. Cyril, taken while both churches were in the process of being demolished. Both were wide open and the rubble certainly wasn't being reused, as it was loaded into trucks and hauled away. Obviously there was no renovation taking place, as both are now empty lots.

    Both churches were near and dear to me since my family had been members of both parishes, my parents went to their schools and I was baptized at St. Thomas.

    The pieces that would have gone to a landfill are now prominently displayed in my parent's gardens, used as plant stands. They are enjoyed by people that count, folks who had special memories of their churches and schools, and serve a far better purpose than filling landfills.

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