Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Orchestra Hall

Orchestra Hall, a warm and elegant gem among Detroit’s music venues, is the centerpiece of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. Its superb acoustical qualities distinguish it as one of the finest concert halls in the world, with a historical legacy that few others can match.

The building was constructed at the insistence of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, a world-renowned pianist and conductor of the fledgling Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). He felt that a fine orchestra needed a fine hall and he found financial support within the community for his vision. Designed by noted theater architect C. Howard Crane, the project took less than five months to complete. 

Located on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Parsons Street, the simply designed limestone exterior belies the more extravagant, fan-shaped hall with its Art Deco style ornamentation. More importantly, a combination of materials, an asymmetrical design and noise reduction features to limit outside noise from the heavily-trafficked Woodward, resulted in an acoustically perfect concert hall.

After Orchestra Hall opened in 1919, the DSO performed there and has since hosted outstanding artists such as Enrico Caruso and Isadora Duncan, George Gershwin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and YoYo Ma. After the Symphony left the Hall because of financial problems in 1939, the building was sold. It reopened as the Paradise Theater in 1941, a jazz and popular music venue that was a vibrant part of the adjacent African American community. Music legends Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie “Bird” Parker and Lena Horne were among those who performed there.

The Paradise closed in 1951. After standing empty for nearly 20 years plans were made to demolish the Hall until DSO musicians and community leaders stepped in. “Save Orchestra Hall” was a $6.8 million, 19 year long restoration project that returned the theater to its former glory. The DSO returned in 1989 and since then has expanded Orchestra Hall. The lobby was enlarged and the 135,000 square-foot Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center added to create a block-long performance and education space.



Orchestra Hall, 1975 - 2012.022.375

Students outside the Orchestra Hall, 1930s - 2013.028.118

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