The Fillmore Detroit spent much of its life as the State Theatre, opening under that name on Oct. 29, 1925. It was designed by legendary Detroit theater architect C. Howard Crane and built atop the site of the first Grand Circus Theatre, also designed by Crane.
Crane designed the 12-story, terra cotta-sheathed building in the Renaissance Revival style for theater mogul John H. Kunsky’s chain of movie houses. The theater itself is six stories tall and is in the back of the building. The theater was one of the city’s larger movie houses, seating just shy of 3,000 people. But it was a more subdued affair compared with its next door neighbor, the Crane-designed Fox Theatre.
On May 22, 1937, its name was changed to the Palms-State Theatre until 1949, when it became simply the Palms. The name comes from the building in which it is housed, the Palms Building, which was built by the Palms Realty Co. and named after prominent 19th century Detroit banker and real estate mogul Francis S. Palms.
Like many Detroit landmarks, the Palms Building was modernized in the late 1950s or early 1960s. This stripped the lobby and floors of much of their original splendor. The first floor of the building’s exterior also was destroyed, covered in a concrete and given aluminum storefronts. Fortunately, the theater itself was largely sparred and still maintains much of its glamor. However, when the theater was converted from a movie house to a concert venue, its floor seating was ripped out to provide for standing room events. The balcony and mezzanine levels still have their seats, however.
The building and theater were added to the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 25, 1984.
In 2007, concert promoter Live Nation announced that it was changing the name of the State to the Fillmore Detroit, to capitalize on the legendary Fillmore Theatre brand. The office tower, however, is still known as the Palms Building.
More on this historic building of Detroit coming soon.