118 Monroe Street,
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Architects: Albert Kahn
Previous Names: Palace Theater
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 Theater, 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.
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