Historic Detroit

Annex Theatre

What’s with the weird name? Well, the Annex Theatre was built just down Grand River Avenue from the Grand Riviera Theatre to serve as an overflow theater of sorts.

Like its parent theater, the Annex was an atmospheric theater designed by architect John Eberson. This scaled down theater borrowed the Riviera’s style, putting the audience in a simulated garden “with twinkling electric stars and moving white clouds projected on the dark blue ceiling,” according to “Opera House, Nickel Show and Palace” by architecture historian Andrew Craig Morrison. “The sides of the auditorium were designed as building facades and garden walls, with windows lighted from within, and artificial trees and vines as adornment. White doves were suspended from the ceiling as if in flight. The house lights dimmed for the show in an imitation sunset.”

The theater sat 1,824 people. Unlike its big brother, the Annex did not have a balcony. This was the only known design by the Eberson firm like this, according to Detroit theater historian John Lauter.

The Annex opened Feb. 4, 1927. When its owners decided to consolidate their dwindling crowds in the Grand Riviera, the Annex was closed in 1949. It was demolished in 1954.

Its Robert Morton theatre pipe organ was removed just prior to demolition and saw service in a Minneapolis church for years, and was just removed from that building recently, according to Lauter.

A nondescript beauty school sits on the site today.