Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Vanity Ballroom

The Vanity Ballroom is located at the corner of Newport Street and East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. It is one of six elaborate ballrooms that were built in Detroit in the 1920s to accommodate the city’s growing number of bands and aspiring musicians. 

Built in 1929 and designed by Detroit architect Charles N. Agree, the Vanity is a two-story Art Deco brick building with an Aztec theme. The first floor once contained five retail stores, with the ballroom occupying the entire second floor. The ballroom boasts a 5,600 square-foot maple dance floor, a stage, and a promenade on three sides. The dance floor was built on springs designed to fluctuate with the weight of the people dancing on it, giving the dancers a “bouncing” sensation as they moved. The floor could hold approximately 1,000 couples.

The owner and manager of the ballroom was Edward J. Strata who maintained the venue for 30 years. The Grande Ballroom, on the city’s West Side, was built by Strata and his partner, Edward J. Davis two years earlier, and was also designed by Agree.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, September through June, the Vanity served as a popular center of entertainment for Detroiters five nights a week. Over the course of these decades, it played host to several famous musical acts including Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, the Russ Morgan and Art Mooney bands, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Cab Calloway, and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.

When the big band era ended, the Vanity closed in 1958 due to decreasing business. It was briefly re-opened in 1964, and offered musical entertainment for Detroiters one night a week. After 1964, the Vanity was closed and remained largely unused, with a few attempts at presenting local rock groups like the MC5 and the Stooges, which faded with the decline of the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. As the building changed hands other efforts were made to bring the ballroom back to life, including, in 1980, recruiting the original architect to restore the ballroom to its original appearance.  However, the business couldn’t be sustained. The ballroom was featured in the movie Eight Mile, starring Eminem.

The Vanity was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. As one of Detroit’s last standing ballrooms, the Vanity is included on Preservation Detroit’s list of endangered buildings. Today, the building is privately owned, but remains vacant and in heavy disrepair.



The stage of the Vanity Ballroom, 1975 - 2010.033.332

Interior of the Vanity Ballroom, 1975 - 2010.033.331

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