Bonstelle Theatre

3424 Woodward Avenue,
Detroit, MI 48201

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Additional Info

Architects: Charles Howard Crane, Albert Kahn

Styles: Neo-Classical

Previous Names: Bonstelle Playhouse, Detroit Civic Theatre, Mayfair Theatre, Wayne State University Theatre

Nearby Theaters

News About This Theater

Bonstelle Theatre

What is now known as the Bonstelle Theatre has had a long and varied life.

It was first built in 1902, as Temple Beth-El, whose congregation moved from their previous long-time location on Cadillac Square after that space, above a drugstore, was outgrown. Designed by Albert Kahn, the synagogue was constructed in grandiose Neo-Classical style, imitating the Pantheon in Rome, complete with a large dome and pedimented and colonaded facade, the synagogue was as ornate inside as out, with marble floors, gilding everywhere and intricate mosaic work. It was, until the 1920’s, the largest Jewish house of worship in Detroit.

After the congregation left the synagogue for a new home in the 1920’s, the building was purchased by actress and theater company manager Jessie Bonstelle. Bonstelle had first begun managing her company in Syracuse, New York at age 19, and had, since 1910, leased Detroit’s Garrick Theatre.

She hired noted theater architect C. Howard Crane to remodel the former synagogue as the Bonstelle Playhouse, in 1925. Seating was increased to 1,200 and a stage built. The facade was simplified by the removal of the columns and its round stained-glass windows covered by a new terra cotta facade.

In 1928, it was renamed the Detroit Civic Theatre. Miss Bonstelle died in 1932, and her theater company sold the building. It reopened a year later on October 20, 1933 as a movie house, now called the Mayfair Theatre.

After nearly two decades showing first-run films, the Mayfair Theatre returned to legitimate theatre in 1951 after it was acquired for the drama department of Wayne State University. It was renamed the Wayne State University Theatre.

Still part of the University to this day, it has since been restored and renamed the Bonstelle Theatre, in honor of its founder. It continued to shine as a venue for the best in live performances from Shakespeare to musicals. It had closed and had been abandoned by May 2023 due to the opening of the new Hilberry Gateway Performance Art venue. Renovation began in December 2023 to convert into an event & performance space as part of the neighboring AC Hotel project.

Lily Tomlin and Tom Skerritt are among those to have gotten their acting starts at the Bonstelle Theatre.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

sdoerr on March 4, 2004 at 1:39 am

Theater was originally designed by Albert Kahn

sdoerr on March 4, 2004 at 8:23 pm

thanks but FYI I put it in there soon after I wrote it, I just placed it there so I remembered to add it, but thanks btk630

rivest266 on November 5, 2015 at 9:12 am

October 20th, 1933 grand opening ad in photo section.

Ssc48 on June 9, 2023 at 4:37 pm

this is now closed and abandoned

nsortzi on December 13, 2023 at 11:19 pm

Currently under renovation into an event and performance space as part of the neighboring AC Hotel project. I uploaded a photo showing work underway.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.