Detroit’s National Theatre

Detroit’s National Theatre is the one theater that still resides in present-day Detroit. Originially designed by the architect, Albert Kahn, the theatre’s exterior is a “Baroque-Moorish-Beaux-Arts hybrid with a Moroccan or Egyptian flavor…the National is covered in white terra cotta fired at Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. It features two proud eagles, carved stone rosettes, cupids and other small Art Noveau details dotting the facade. It has twin, 64-foot gold-domed towers with airy grill work and a grand, recessed Romanesque arch over the entrance.” (“Historic Detroit.”), [1] Inside it was a small, narrow lobby that was lined with tan Pewabic tile and it led everyone into the 800-seat theater. There was a suspended plastic interior shell with a supporting structure that was made out of bricks. There were detailed gold-leaf designs that were painted on the walls. People in the theater would climb up the staircases that were located in side towers to reach balcony seats.

Despite how astounding the theater looks and sounds, the National Theatre is in need of repairs and is still awaiting redevelopment. “The façade is intact and appears structurally stable, as do the exterior walls. While the outside is in remarkably good shape, inside is another story. Exposed to the elements and to thieves and scrappers, the theater is a shadow of its former self. The paint is peeling, the elaborate stencil work faded, the plaster destroyed by the penetrating rain and snow.” (“Historic Detroit.”), [1] Today it is in a disheartening condition. The ceiling is missing huge chunks and most of the elaborate decorations that accompanied the balcony have been torn down. There are a lot less seats today and many of the lobby’s Pewabic tiles have disappeared.


[1.] “Historic Detroit.” National Theatre -. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.                                                 <;.



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