National Theatre

118 Monroe Street,
Detroit, MI 48226

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National Theatre

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The National Theatre was opened September 24, 1911 as a vaudeville house, and designed by Albert Kahn in a beautiful Art Nouveau style with Egyptian elements.

The polychrome terra cotta facade is its most spectacular feature, with a large arched window, resembling a triumphal arch, and two minarets on either side, once topped by gilded domes.

Floral and other nature-based terra cotta decor, including stylized scarab beetles, also graced the facade.

The interior could originally seat over 2,200, and featured a large stage and simple but graceful decor.

Within a few years of its opening, it switched from vaudeville to movies, and by the 1940’s and 1950’s, had become a burlesque house.

In the 1960’s, it received a new name, the Palace Theatre, and operated as an adult film venue. It was closed in 1975.

Since its closing, the National Theatre, like so many of Detroit’s old movie houses, has fallen into serious disrepair, both inside and out. Its facade still looks majestic, though, despite its boarded-up entrance and decrepit marquee.

In 1998, a preservation-minded group called Cityscape Detroit went into the National Theatre to clean it up. There was consideration at the time of possibly renovating the long-vacant theater.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

sdoerr on June 17, 2006 at 2:24 am

Looks like I get to see my faces and towers cleaaned after all.

Over the past month or so they’ve been doing more work. Looks like it’s being performed by ChezCore.

The whole facade, top-to-bottom including the golden crown of the towers is clean! Now if only the terra-cotta could be repaired, parts repainted, the light bulbs replaced, we could have an alive National.

sdoerr on November 1, 2006 at 4:52 pm

Interior cleaning and work has been takeing place since the summer, rumor is a dinner theater will be coming.

One can only hope, though the interior will never be how the national was if it were to take place, or at least I don’t think it will be.

mortonbg on March 6, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I found some more pictures here

View link

Lak on January 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm

I thought that this theatre was supposed to be restored soon.

nonsportsnut on October 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I’m a Three Stooges Fan Club member, trying to confirm a personal appearance by the “3” Stooges (Moe Larry and Shemp), on a bill with Wee Bonnie Baker, the Barretts and Don Hooton, after an appearance by the A.B. Marcus Revue. The movie “Queen of Burlesque” was also shown. I have a display ad, but no dates (or town shown). Believe it was the Summer of 1946, and may have been Shemp’s first appearance after Curly’s strokes. The National was advertised as air cooled and showed a phone number of JA-7863.
Any help will be appreciated.
Thanks Frank Reighter

Twistr54 on June 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm

View link

New photos I took on May 29, 2010. Theatre looks a little rough,,,

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 5, 2010 at 11:45 am

Here is a page for the National Theatre at the web site Buildings of Detroit. There are links to galleries with vintage and modern photos.

Patsy on March 11, 2011 at 2:03 am

I just learned of this theatre in Detroit and the Michigan Theatre…such a shame.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on January 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I recently photographed the National. Check out some photos and a short write up at After the Final Curtain

rivest266 on November 2, 2015 at 10:14 pm

September 24th, 1911 grand opening ad with photo in photo section.

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