Vanity Ballroom – Detroit, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

Vanity Ballroom

Dilapidated Mayan-themed ballroom was one of Detroit's most popular venues through the 40s. 


Opened in 1929, the Vanity Ballroom established itself as one of Detroit’s most popular music venues up through the 1940’s. Designed by architect Charles N. Agree, the ballroom’s most unique feature was its architecture. Inside the exterior of orange brick, the building boasted stylized arches, geometric engravings and tile work reminiscent of a pre-Colombian dream-world. Flanked by two long bars and equipped with a 5,000 square-foot dance floor, 15-inch speakers and a revolving chandelier, the Vanity welcomed the likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Cab Calloway as well as thousands of dancing couples.

In 1958, the Vanity closed its doors as rock ‘n’ roll replaced big band music of the past and musical acts become too expensive to book. This little-building-that-could, though, reopened again in 1964 in a short stint as a venue for garage-rock acts like The Stooges, MC5 and Ted Nugent, and again in the 1980’s as a Caribbean themed music club before closing down officially.

Now, despite its place on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has fallen host to vagrants and scavengers looking to own a piece of its unique architecture. While there are no official plans for restoration, current owner Leroy Burgess, would like to see the building restored to its original luster.

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