Fine Arts & Adams Theater.

2007 / 2009

At the start of 2009, it was announced that a decision was made to give Mike Illitch $2.5 million of taxpayer money so that he could take down 6 of his buildings. One was the Devon Garages North Unit and another was the Fine Arts/Adams Theater you see above.

Actually, it was 5 demolitions and the interior demolition of the Fine Arts Building. A condition of the agreement was for Olympia (Illitch's Company) to spend $500 000 to stabilize the facade of the building you see above, while they demolished the backside of the Fine Arts and the entire Adams Theater.

If you're sort of confused, see the above aerial image, with the Fine Arts (FA) and the Adams Theater highlighted in yellow0.

The way the theater worked was that it was an alley jumper theater. A rare type where people would enter in the Fine Arts building and take a tunnel beneath the alleyway for floor seating and a sky-bridge atop the alleyway if they had balcony seats.

Sounds like an interesting concept to me and I'd love to attend one of these theaters today. Although I can't see something like it existing anymore because of our pussy society new safety/convenience measures.

0 - You can also see the Fox and the State theaters, along with Cheli's restaurant for a greater sense of location.

The Adams Theater opened in 1917 with a capacity of 1770. It was designed by C. Howard Crane, who designed approximately 250 theaters throughout North America and over 50 in the D (he also designed Olympia Stadium).

In a city of ridiculously opulent theaters, the Adams was very modest.

For a great picture of the interior in 1917 and one of the major sources of my Adams knowledge, check ForgottenDetroit.

What modest opulence the Adams had, was covered up in a renovation during the 60s - leaving you with a bland, ocean blue square.

Entering into the floor area and atop the stage, we noticed just how bad the Adams was deteriorating.

Also, I took these pictures before I even brought a tripod to buildings; so the pictures aren't very good and I'm also low balling the theater in that I couldn't take pictures of certain things since I couldn't take long enough exposures.

The lobby.

Modern, blek.

The SC concession stand.

Dated job applications.

It's interesting to see how things have changed over time, even when they're things you don't normally ponder (i.e. job applications).

I always knew of the Adams, but I didn't know where it was until someone told me. When they did inform me about it, they also told me about the path over to the Fine Arts.

If I would have known about the previously mentioned basement passage, I would have liked to have looked for that; but then again, if no one has pictures of it, it's likely sealed.

Anyway, we made our way over to the Fine Arts and were quickly set aback by the deterioration of the 1905 Louis Kamper structure.

Downward to the bottom floor first, we found a ten foot knoll of wallboard, pipes, nails and beams at the center.

A small climb and I looked up to find the entire center of the structure had came down to form this debris pile.

(The above picture is looking up the center hole - the staircase would be in the center-left area.)

The bottom floor also had faux stores built and painted to look like Paris, along with a faux ship area with a bar and other randomness.

I'm pretty sure it was used for acting classes in its senior years.

A door over by the front of the Fine Arts had a bunch of signatures from performers I've never heard of...until I found John 'Spider' Salley! John Spider Salley was a power forward in the NBA, known most from his time with the Detroit Pistons, where he won two championships. He went on to win another with the Bulls and another with the Lakers - making him the first basketball player to ever win championships with 3 different organizations.

For a player who was largely known in the 80s, he has become known to people today by being a host of The Best Damn Sports Show, Period.

I also never noticed it until today, but looking at this photo there's a Carmen Harlan to the right of the John Salley. It looks like an elementary school child wrote it, so I question its legitimacy, but who knows.

The stairs were creaky, but they seemed safe because of their heavy duty construction and their position in a corner of the building. We climbed the 8 floors and almost every floor we peered into was decimated.

This was the top floor which you could wander around a little bit if you didn't value your life. The entire floor was slanting at 20 or 30 degrees and sopping wet to the point of where it resembled a wet paper towel more than a sturdy floor.

I know a dude who went here before and went onto the roof; but myself & The Don decided against it. I have to give him some dap and take some away from us; but I was already working hard enough at convincing The Don just to come up to the top floor; since he's not a fan of rickety structures.

Our twenty minute tour of the Fine Arts was over and we made our way back across the alley-bridge and into the projector room.

Next to the projector room was one of the three sections created in the 80s as a solution to the theater's decline (they divided the theater into 3 sections in the 80s - plus started showing pornographic and bloodbath films - in an attempt to rekindle business).

We sat in those seats and The Don inquired about how many guys I thought ejaculated in each of these seats - to which I just shook my head. Furthermore, the girl we were with continued the subject by letting us know how disgusting she thought guys were because they would come to a place like this, and, you know.

We had to inform here that there are guys who would do it out on the street if it was publicly acceptable.

Anyway, the theater division and the move to pornographic movies didn't jolt the theater business as they hoped.

Further declines were brought about by tragedy in the October of 1988. The theater was showing the new Run-D.M.C. movie Tougher than Leather and the management prophesied a need for extra security. This didn't help one Melvin Jackson though, as the 20 year old male was shot and killed inside the theater during the movie opening.

The movie was pulled from the Adams theater and other nearby theaters; but gunplay occurred at the Adams again, just over a month later. Michael and Dozshon Johnson got into an argument with a 16 year old and his crew of people inside the theater. During the movie intermission, a fistfight broke out in the aisle way, which a security guard tried to stop. The lights dimmed for the second portion of the movie and the security guard went to call the police. While the security guard was away, the 16 year old, who was losing the fight, pulled a .32 caliber revolver and fired six times, hitting Dozshon in the back and the leg & Michael in the chest and shoulder. The 16 year old was taken into custody a week later, after other Northwestern High School students found out it was him and reported him to the police.

The theater closed the next week. The last movie which played at the Adams was Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers & Messenger of Death.


1 - Cinema Treasures | Adams Theater

2 - Adams Theater - Forgotten Detroit

3 - C. Howard Crane - Wikipedia

4 - John Salley - Wikipedia

5 - Man Shot to Death at Theater - Detroit Free Press. October 9, 1988.

6 - Teen Arrested in Downtown Shooting - Detroit Free Press. November 19, 1988.

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