Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Vanity Ballroom

The Vanity Ballroom is a public building that is located at the corner of Newport Street and East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of six elaborate ballrooms that were built in Detroit in the 1920s to accommodate the city’s ever-growing number of bands and aspiring musicians. The Vanity was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

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

From the 1930s to the 1950s, from 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 and Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Pee Wee Hunt, and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.

In 1958, the Vanity closed 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 the exception of its ballroom which was utilized in Eminem’s famous movie, Eight Mile (2002). Today, the building is privately owned, but remains vacant and in heavy disrepair.

Written by Julia Teran

 


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