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Temple Beth-El
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
Temple Beth-El Bonstelle Theater.jpg
Location 3424 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
Built 1902
Architect Albert Kahn; C. Howard Crane
Architectural style Beaux-Arts
Part of Midtown Woodward Historic District (ID08001106)
MPS Religious Structures of Woodward Ave. TR
NRHP reference No. 82002911
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP August 3, 1982
Designated CP November 26, 2008

The Bonstelle Theatre is a theater operated by Wayne State University, and located at 3424 Woodward Avenue (the southeast corner of Woodward and Eliot) in the Midtown Woodward Historic District of Detroit, Michigan. It was built in 1902 as the Temple Beth-El, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. As of 2019, the University plans to decommission the theatre and lease it to a private developer for inclusion in a boutique hotel.

Construction

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. The congregation purchased a site for the new temple in April of the next year and engaged member Albert Kahn to design the structure. Groundbreaking took place 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.

Building

The temple is a Beaux-Arts structure influenced primarily by Roman and Greek temples. Sobocinski cites the Pantheon in Rome for comparison. There is a prominent dome over the main area of the temple, with gabled wings on the north and south. A pedimented extension on the front once extended into a porch; the front section of the building was lost when the city widened Woodward Avenue in 1936.

Later use

When the Temple Beth El congregation constructed a new building farther north along Woodward in 1922, they sold the building at Woodward and Eliot to Jessie Bonstelle for $500,000. Bonstelle hired architect C. Howard Crane to convert the building into a theater, and named the resulting building the Bonstelle Playhouse. In 1928, the Bonstelle Playhouse became the Detroit Civic Theatre, and in the 1930s, the Mayfair Motion Picture Theater. In 1951, Wayne State University rented the facility as a performance space for its theater company, and purchased it outright in 1956, renaming it the Bonstelle Theatre in honor of Jessie Bonstelle.

The University continues to use the theatre through Spring 2020 after which it will lease the facility to The Roxbury Group for renovation and redevelopment. The University will continue to produce in the Hilberry Theatre and until the completion of the Gateway Performing Arts Center which is scheduled to open in Fall of 2021.

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