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  1. #101

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    Krawlspace wrote, "So take your pick, landfill, mush, or on display for others to enjoy..."

    If you want others to be able to enjoy the pieces fully, why not donate them to an institution such as the DIA, the Detroit Historical Museum, or the U-M Museum of Art? The Chicago Art Institute has a permanent exhibit of architectural fragments from demolished Chicago buildings.

    Even if a museum at first put the pieces in storage, there would still be a better long-term chance for future generations to view the fragments. Krawlspace, I hope you have given some thought to a long-term home for the pieces. By all means, enjoy them in your private collection now, but for posterity's sake you might want to make arrangements for a permanent home for them. If you already have, good for you!

  2. #102

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    I didn't want to start a separate thread about this....

    On the block next door to the United Artists, at the Michigan Building, film crews were filming scenes for the movie HIGHLAND PARK USA in the former Michigan Theatre space.

    Film crews and even commercial photographers are no stranger to the former Michigan.... one of the scenes in Eminem's 8 MILE movie was filmed there, as have several commercials and magazine ads. Hmmm... maybe I can get a list together....

    Even 32 years after that fateful March 1977 day when the theatre space was disemboweled... it's still a hauntingly beautiful space that draws people from around the world to visit it...

  3. #103

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gistok View Post
    I didn't want to start a separate thread about this....

    On the block next door to the United Artists, at the Michigan Building, film crews were filming scenes for the movie HIGHLAND PARK USA in the former Michigan Theatre space.

    Film crews and even commercial photographers are no stranger to the former Michigan.... one of the scenes in Eminem's 8 MILE movie was filmed there, as have several commercials and magazine ads. Hmmm... maybe I can get a list together....

    Even 32 years after that fateful March 1977 day when the theatre space was disemboweled... it's still a hauntingly beautiful space that draws people from around the world to visit it...
    I worked in the Michigan Theatre Building from 1978 to 1982. I parked in that 'garage' the last two years I worked there. On a couple of occasions, some of my co-workers and I went exploring through some of the back hallways and below stage storage areas. It's beyond sad what was left behind when they, as you so aptly described it, disemboweled the theatre space. Some day, as I'm now once again working downtown, I'll park there again. Just so I can revisit it.

  4. #104

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    Half of the stuff from these old buildings either disintegrates or is stolen. I've been in homes where 'rifled' goods are proudly displayed. I was in a home of an acquaintance in Southgate, about 30 years ago. They had photos, drawings, blueprints and other artifacts from the MCD displayed in their family room. Lot's of stuff. I'd seen many of these types of documents, onsite at the MCD, during the 60's and 70's, while visiting family and friends at work in the building. Though I enjoyed seeing this stuff, it was sad knowing the public might never see it again. This was not an isolated incident. It's been repeated a few times in my experience, from the distant 'burbs' to the inner city.

  5. #105

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    I've had opportunities to remove furniture and artifacts from countless buildings in Detroit. Amongst them the MCD, Book-Cadillac, Book Tower, AAA-UA Theatre, Michigan Theatre, Tuller, Leland, Statler, Broderick, etc. I'm not much of an explorer. Usually the first and second floors are okay to check out. There were some great pieces in the Tuller that I wanted badly (a claw's foot, slate, blackboard, for example), going so far as to move them near the exits. In the end, I couldn't do it. It might've been okay if I'd taken stuff and donated some of it to museums. I don't know. And despite occasional regrets, I don't feel bad about my decisions. I had pieces I bought from former owner's of the Tuller. I also had furniture from Fisher Brother's homes, given to me by, and some bought from, friend's who owned the homes. The Gar Wood is another example. I could've easily had drawings blueprints, photos and furnishings. As much as it pains me to know that stuff is mostly gone forever (who knows where and when something will re-appear?) I'm at peace that I didn't take it. How would I explain it to my former housemates? I particularly remember crashing in a room with piles of cushions, drawings, blueprints and other artifacts. I slept on that stuff, not really knowing, or even caring, about it's historic worth.

  6. #106

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    Drove by the UA again tonight. Lights were on inside on the first floor, in the three windows or so to the left of the theater entrance (right end of the building if facing the building standing on Bagley side), a lot of lights, so they are definately doing some work in there, even though the area around those lights looked pretty rough. Also, it appears that the wavy canopy over the sidewalk has been partially dismantled in the past week, as very little remains, merely just a few of the horizontal supports.

    I will try to drive by there once a week to try to see anything new. Has anyone else heard anything new?

  7. #107

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    Thanks for the info esp1986!!

    All the buzz so far does NOT sound like a demolition!

    Attached are older pics of that wobbly canopy (that's being removed) over the United Artists Building facade from 2 angles. That canopy, the gray slate wall panels and other items were part of a regrettable mid 20th century building "improvement".

    The last pic shows how the UA Building looked back earlier in the century... as built. The first 3 stories included 2 story Corinthian pilasters topped by Roman arches. Definitely much nicer than what came later.

    Also, notice that in the 1st pic the tan brickwork on the 4th and 5th floor is in better condition that on those floors above it? The 3rd pic will reveal the reason for this... when the first 3 floors were modernized, the 4th and 5th floors had their fancy stone or terra cotta skin removed as well... and it was replaced with plain brick of a color that matches the floors above. Those 2 modernized floors have no ornamentation at all, while the deteriorating facade tan brickwork floors above it (never touched in a remodeling) still have their partial decorations.
    Attached Images Attached Images    
    Last edited by Gistok; October-05-09 at 02:20 AM.

  8. #108

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    .... and here's a closeup of the old United Artists Building details...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  9. #109

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    This link, and everyone's contribution to it, proves again the great value DY is to our city. And for that matter, to our whole history, locally, nationally and internationally. Gistok never ceases to amaze me with his memory, research and presentations. He presents so much, I often have to return again and again to take it all in. Kudos Gistok. Thanks to everyone for your contributions.

  10. #110

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    well from the recent posts, saying matty moroun said it is being renovated for a government tenant, as well as the bid for plasterwork seem to point directly to a major renovation, so until I hear (or see) otherwise, I am going to assume it is being renovated. considering the Ilitches were marketing the building for a couple years and put a new roof on it, gives me no reason to believe it is anything but a renovation, it just needed a tenant.

  11. #111

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    Gistok,
    Showed my wife the pics of the UA building. She remembers going from the 9th floor to the National Bank of Detroit branch next door on the corner of Bagley and Clifford to deposit checks from Auto Club of Michigan. That was in 1968-71.

  12. #112

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    Greetings one and all. Okay, everybody on this thread run out to your favorite bookstore and purchase "Detroit's Downtown Movie Palaces," from the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing, and then you can all get up to speed with Gistok. It's a wonderful book with excellent pics and a nice narrative about the various theater districts, the people behind the scenes at these theaters and movies distribution offices, and with only one mistake that I could find, a nice rundown on the various movies and there first-run Detroit venues. If the UA gets restored it could become a cathedral to the notion of a true film forum. Silent films would be a natural for a truly restored auditorium; also a festival of roadshow films that played the UA during the 50s and 60s could draw a crowd (if you could find any decent 65mm prints to expose as 70 mm presentations, that is.) Maybe technology could allow for digital presentations in a widescreen format and the search for 65mm prints wouldn't be necessary. Please allow me 2 memories of the UA and then I'll go -- during the heyday of the roadshow presentation the United Artist newspaper ads featured a very appealing script - as if handwritten - of the words United Artists. To my mind and my senses it was quite stunning, and of course I remember it 40-plus years later (go to the DPL and check it our on microfilm.) Also, one time on a gray Detroit afternoon, my mother deposited my two younger brothers and myself at the UA while she proceeded to go around the corner and take advantage of the DDD sales. The feature - "The Longest Day." In the dark theater, with the curtains already drawn back, suddenly the film came to life with an all too bright beachfront shot of a lone G.I. helmet rolling in the waves. Finally, I mean it this time, I have had the thought of doing some public art where I would project the films of my youth that I saw at the UA on the now marquee-less exterior - no sound - just images, maybe the chariot race from Ben-Hur; or John Wayne blowing up a room full of gun powder in "The Alamo," or Julie Christie standing there - just standing there in that red dress in "Doctor Zhivago." There are ghosts my friends and the thunder of hundreds of thousands of hands applauding over time. And we can neither conjure up the past or set free the spirits inside the United Artist. Memories are painful.

  13. #113

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vitalis View Post
    Greetings one and all. Okay, everybody on this thread run out to your favorite bookstore and purchase "Detroit's Downtown Movie Palaces," from the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing, and then you can all get up to speed with Gistok. It's a wonderful book with excellent pics and a nice narrative about the various theater districts, the people behind the scenes at these theaters and movies distribution offices, and with only one mistake that I could find, a nice rundown on the various movies and there first-run Detroit venues. If the UA gets restored it could become a cathedral to the notion of a true film forum. Silent films would be a natural for a truly restored auditorium; also a festival of roadshow films that played the UA during the 50s and 60s could draw a crowd (if you could find any decent 65mm prints to expose as 70 mm presentations, that is.) Maybe technology could allow for digital presentations in a widescreen format and the search for 65mm prints wouldn't be necessary. Please allow me 2 memories of the UA and then I'll go -- during the heyday of the roadshow presentation the United Artist newspaper ads featured a very appealing script - as if handwritten - of the words United Artists. To my mind and my senses it was quite stunning, and of course I remember it 40-plus years later (go to the DPL and check it our on microfilm.) Also, one time on a gray Detroit afternoon, my mother deposited my two younger brothers and myself at the UA while she proceeded to go around the corner and take advantage of the DDD sales. The feature - "The Longest Day." In the dark theater, with the curtains already drawn back, suddenly the film came to life with an all too bright beachfront shot of a lone G.I. helmet rolling in the waves. Finally, I mean it this time, I have had the thought of doing some public art where I would project the films of my youth that I saw at the UA on the now marquee-less exterior - no sound - just images, maybe the chariot race from Ben-Hur; or John Wayne blowing up a room full of gun powder in "The Alamo," or Julie Christie standing there - just standing there in that red dress in "Doctor Zhivago." There are ghosts my friends and the thunder of hundreds of thousands of hands applauding over time. And we can neither conjure up the past or set free the spirits inside the United Artist. Memories are painful.
    Reminiscent of the good 'ol days, but it is sad to say that the UA's days as a movie palace are likely behind her, restoration or not. Single screen movie houses just can't make it like they once could, and with the investment it will require to fix up the UA, they will need to sell an awful lot of $8-10 tickets to make a few hundred million bucks... I think we would all love to see it again, but those days are gone, and as you said, "Memories are painful."

  14. #114

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    Thanks for the kind words all!

    Nice history Vitalis, thanks for sharing!

    Although I'm no expert on restoration work esp1986, I don't think the "several hundred million" figure you mentioned would be correct. Granted the building is in rough shape and would require extensive restoration/renovations.

    As for the auditorium... when they restored the Capitol Theatre (Detroit Opera House), MOT spent $42 million on an auditorium about twice the size of the UA. And much of that $42 million was spent on a new addition for the massive stage house, the 6 story office block, and building facade restorations.

    So a new United Artists Theatre restoration would be less than that amount, although when you factor in the UA office block, it would definitely exceed that amount... likely by quite a bit. A guestimate would be in excess of the costs to renovate the Fort Shelby hotel.

  15. #115

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    You can't really base cost on the size of a building. There are so many different variables of what needs to be repaired, replaced, and completely rebuilt. I think cost estimates should always be taken with a grain of salt. Because you never know whats fully wrong with a building (there could be no copper pipes left in the entire building and all of which would have to replaced ahhhh!) until you fully assess it.

    Hopefully very soon we'll get an official explanation as to what's going on. I'll be in town Sunday, but obviously no work will be going on that day, or else I'd walk right up and ask!

    esp1986 you should do that! go run up and shout at the lit floors: "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!?!?!?!?"

  16. #116

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gistok View Post
    Thanks for the kind words all!

    Nice history Vitalis, thanks for sharing!

    Although I'm no expert on restoration work esp1986, I don't think the "several hundred million" figure you mentioned would be correct. Granted the building is in rough shape and would require extensive restoration/renovations.

    As for the auditorium... when they restored the Capitol Theatre (Detroit Opera House), MOT spent $42 million on an auditorium about twice the size of the UA. And much of that $42 million was spent on a new addition for the massive stage house, the 6 story office block, and building facade restorations.

    So a new United Artists Theatre restoration would be less than that amount, although when you factor in the UA office block, it would definitely exceed that amount... likely by quite a bit. A guestimate would be in excess of the costs to renovate the Fort Shelby hotel.
    Well if you look at the cost of the Book Cadillac Renovation, upwards of $200 Million, and then take a look at the dire shape of the UA auditorium, one would be led to believe that it could cost at least that to renovate it. A previous post said a bid was solicited for plaster work, but that a lot of the original plaster pieces were missing. Replicating these missing pieces would be very costly. Additionally, the facade of the building, falling apart as it has been for years now, could require extensive repairs as well, which is more than a little sandblasting that had to happen at the Book Cadillac to simply clean up the facade.

    Either way, I am not sure how much it will cost, but it is sure to be significant enough that the revenues from film would not likely cover the significant investment to renovate the building in its entirety.

  17. #117

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    esp1986, I don't know how to even begin to estimate the costs of a restoration/renovation of the United Artists Building/Theatre. All I know is that the Book Cadillac has about 4 times the mass of the UA (nearly twice the height, and about twice the bulk)..

    As for missing plasterwork... I can't say what re-molding plaster from scratch would cost. I know that the BC main ballroom was likely done this way... although that plasterwork is very plain by comparison to the UA Theatre.

    There are restoration companies, such as Conrad Schmitt Studios, that specialize in plasterwork restoration... and have a lot of experience in recrreating ornate plaster.
    Last edited by Gistok; October-06-09 at 06:24 PM.

  18. #118

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vitalis View Post
    with only one mistake that I could find,
    Don't doubt it, but what was the mistake?

  19. #119
    Lorax Guest

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    I have been watching this thread without commenting, since I probably don't have much to contribute, but here's a couple of anectdotes that may be of interest.

    I was allowed a private walk through tour of the UA in 1986 by the then caretaker/handyman of the David Whitney Building, who's Canadian owners also owned the UA at the time. The lights were functioning, and the auditorium and lobby were in really pretty good shape. Most of the damage was in the lobby areas, but all of the plaster maidens, the big gold figure was still there, and the chandeliers were still there too- one had fallen to the floor, and it's glass panels were largely broken out, but still there. Also, there were two magnificent, what looked to be bronze lanterns, maybe 10 feet high in niches on either side of the stage, which were still lit and working. All of this is gone, I'm assuming at this point.

    Also, I have a very interesting trade book from the Voight Plaster Company, which was a prominent firm in the casting of plaster ornamentation- even Paul Philippe Cret ordered ceilings from them for the DIA, which are featured in the catalogue.

    I think this may be a rare resource, that could be used for design replication. I don't see any mention of the UA, but there are so many designs for borders, coving, ceilings, figures, etc, that when the time comes, I'm happy to scan this book for whomever needs to reference it for renovation purposes.

  20. #120

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    Lorax, who was your tour guide? Was it Ballantine? I'm assuming your tour was prior to David Grossman acquiring the UA.

  21. #121
    Lorax Guest

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    I really don't remember the gentleman's name, but I believe he was from eastern Europe, it's been so long ago. The owners were a Canadian family, their last name began with a 'G' as I reacall.

  22. #122

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    I went on a tour of the United Artists when David Grossman owned the building/theatre in the early 1990s... and he gave the tour.

    Sadly, he couldn't afford the cost of fixing up the complex. When he sold it later to Don Barden (when it was within the footprint of one of the downtown casino sites) he added the stipulation that it NOT be resold to Mike Ilitch.

    Well as fate would have it the casino sites were changed, so Don Barden later sold the UA complex to the city because it was supposedly within the west Foxtown Tigers stadium area. Barden probably thought he'd get browny points for getting one of the 3 casino licenses (much to his chagrin later)... and the city immediately sold it to Mike Ilitch. I believe David Grossman tried to sue, but his suit was thrown out.

    If the Ilitch's are restoring the UA complex... one wonders if they could kick themselves for not having secured and taken better care of it before... or are they so awash in cash that they don't care?

  23. #123

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorax View Post
    I have been watching this thread without commenting, since I probably don't have much to contribute, but here's a couple of anectdotes that may be of interest.

    I was allowed a private walk through tour of the UA in 1986 by the then caretaker/handyman of the David Whitney Building, who's Canadian owners also owned the UA at the time. The lights were functioning, and the auditorium and lobby were in really pretty good shape. Most of the damage was in the lobby areas, but all of the plaster maidens, the big gold figure was still there, and the chandeliers were still there too- one had fallen to the floor, and it's glass panels were largely broken out, but still there. Also, there were two magnificent, what looked to be bronze lanterns, maybe 10 feet high in niches on either side of the stage, which were still lit and working. All of this is gone, I'm assuming at this point.

    Also, I have a very interesting trade book from the Voight Plaster Company, which was a prominent firm in the casting of plaster ornamentation- even Paul Philippe Cret ordered ceilings from them for the DIA, which are featured in the catalogue.

    I think this may be a rare resource, that could be used for design replication. I don't see any mention of the UA, but there are so many designs for borders, coving, ceilings, figures, etc, that when the time comes, I'm happy to scan this book for whomever needs to reference it for renovation purposes.
    I would love to see these scans, they could definitely be of use being digitized rather than sitting on a shelf exposed to humidity and such. I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy seeing it as well!

  24. #124
    Lorax Guest

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    I will dig it out and scan a few pages and post them here- I have no problem sharing this, and would be willing to have the entire book scanned professionally for anyone who'd be willing to pay for it!

  25. #125
    Lorax Guest

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    Here's a few photos (it may take a couple of attempts, so bear with me) from the Voight Company catalogue of 1928.

    Enjoy!

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