The Bonstelle Theatre: Serving Detroit for 115 Years Today!

By January 25, 2018No Comments

Did you know that on this date in 1903 the first services of Detroit’s Temple Beth El were held in what is now known as the Bonstelle Theatre?

Thanks to a Facebook user and the the Historical Detroit Area Architecture group, we can share several photos of the rich architectural history of the Bonstelle.

From Wikipedia

When Rabbi Leo M. Franklin first began leading services at Detroit’s Temple Beth El in 1899, he felt that the construction of a new temple building on Detroit’s “Piety Row” stretch of Woodward would increase the visibility and prestige of Detroit’s Jewish community.Accordingly, in October 1900, the congregation held a special meeting at which it was decided to build a new temple. A site for the new temple was purchased in April of the next year, and Albert Kahn, a member of the congregation, was hired to design the building. Groundbreaking began on November 25, 1901, with the ceremonial cornerstone laid on April 23, 1902. The first services were held in the chapel on January 24, 1903, and the formal dedication was held on September 18–19 of the same year.

After Temple Beth-El relocated to another space in 1922, Jessie Bonstelle purchased the building and converted it into the Bonstelle Theatre. The remodeling was done by architect C. Howard Crane in 1925 and renamed the Bonstelle Playhouse. In 1928, the Bonstelle Playhouse became the Detroit Civic Theatre, and in the 1930s became the Mayfair Motion Picture Theater. In 1951, Wayne State University rented the building as a performance space for its theater company, and purchased it outright in 1956, renaming it the Bonstelle Theatre in honor of Jessie Bonstelle. [source]


You can visit the Bonstelle Theatre next on March 1 and 2 as we present our 89th Annual Spring Dance Concert and again from April 13 to 22 with Sister Act: The Musical. Click each title for performance schedule and tickets!

Images from Indiana University’s Building a Nation: Indiana Limestone Photograph Collection and from the Burton Historical Collection, circa 1902.