Although it started as a 1920s jazz dancehall, the Grande Ballroom earned its fame as a rock and counterculture center for Detroit in the 1960s. Abandoned and left to deteriorate, its legendary stage is now open to any urban explorers who dare to enter the crumbling structure.
The Grande Ballroom was designed in 1928 by Charles N. Agree in the Art Deco style with Moorish influences. The jazz venue featured a floor on springs in its ballroom, giving people the illusion of floating while they danced.
After shifting from jazz to big bands, it became a dance club in the 1950s. It was unsuccessful, perhaps because it was alcohol-free, and later was turned into a rollerskating rink. Eventually it was shuttered to public use and became a storage facility for mattresses.
However, in 1966 it reopened as a rock venue, transformed by Russ Gibb, a middle school social studies teacher and radio DJ, into a home for the psychedelic and garage rock scene. Soon the Detroit counterculture crowd was pulsing in the glare of one of the largest strobe lights ever constructed to music by emerging local acts like MC5 and the Stooges, as well already legendary bands like the Velvet Underground, the Who, and Pink Floyd.
In 1972, the Grande Ballroom closed. Fixtures were stolen, windows shattered, and plaster fell from the ceiling. Like the blight overtaking the neighborhood surrounding it, neglect has left it in a dire state of disrepair.
While signs appeared in 2006 stating that it was the “Future Home of Chapel Hill Ministries,” the Grande Ballroom remains empty and a restoration is unlikely.