Watch Your Step
Grand Quarters Theater
Located in Detroit, MI
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Grand Quarters Theater History
The history of the Grand Quarters begins with the construction of the Duplex Theater, built on East Grand Boulevard site in 1915. The building was designed and built by Fuller Claflin as a silent film theater and as the name implies, the movie house contained two separate theaters so that different movies could be screened simultaneously. Each space held 750 seats, and the theater utilized a special soundproof wall to divide the two spaces. The organ, which provided music for the silent films, was placed inside this wall, and the music could be directed into either theater through the use of controls by the organist.
The Duplex lived a short life as it burned in 1922; within a few years, architect C. Howard Crane either renovated the remnants of the structure or constructed an entirely new building that would be called Oriole Terrace. This wasn't a theater, but rather a ballroom intended for live performances. It became one of the biggest nightclubs in Detroit, and in the 1920s it hosted a menagerie of "chorus girls," who were reputedly dancer-prostitutes who entertained the male clientele to spur return visits. One of the chorus girls was the actress Joan Crawford, who (before her acting career began) was discovered dancing at Oriole Terrace and arrested for prostitution in 1923.
The theater was re-named the Grand Terrace some time after, and although it suffered a fire in 1940, it was repaired and transformed once again; this time it became a legendary soul venue called Latin Quarters. Stars such as Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Duke Ellington and Sammy Davis Jr. were among those who performed on stage throughout the years. It also hosted dance schools, recitals, and other local performances throughout the 1970s.
The venue was re-named for the last time as the Grand Quarters, and hosted a variety of shows in the 1980s and 1990s, including performances from Skinny Puppy, Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was shuttered sometime around 1996 and was targeted for demolition in 2008, however the building remained extant until 2012, when it was razed to the ground. Currently, the site remains as one of many empty and overgrown lots in the city.