“To preserve the history of the Grande Ballroom and its physical edifice while promoting the Culture fostered by its patrons, performers and promoters.”
Spun from visitors to thegrandeballroom.com, the Friends of the Grande was established as an informal grass roots group in January of 2006 with the following objectives:
- Preservation – Investigate the feasibility of preserving the Grande Ballroom building.
- Nomination – Nominate the ballroom to the National Register of historic places.
- Celebration – To mark the 40th anniversary of the rock re-opening of the Grande in 2006.
FOG reverse chronology
Since 2008 we have no major milestones to report. The Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church has not provided documentation nor any official answer to our Historic Nomination request. Periodic requests for meetings to update the group have been declined. The Church has officially abandoned any plans for re-use of the structure.
10-2-2008 – Progress Report
Talks are at an impasse with the Chapel Hill Baptist Church. Calls to the Church Office and Dr. Smith have not been returned since a roof inspection was canceled Monday June 2nd. The church has had over one year to vett the Historic Nomination. Meanwhile, the church continues to receive city fines for failure to secure the property etc.
6-2-2008 – Roof Inspection (canceled)
FOG forwards an offer by John D’annunzio of Paragon roofing to inspect the Grande Ballroom roof free of charge. This appointment was also to be an opportunity for Filmmaker Tony D’annunzio to shoot interiors of the building. Chapel Missionary Baptist Church cancels this appointment at the last minute.
4-30-2008 – Spring Inspection Tour
Wednesday April 30th FOG members Tom Gaff, Tom Lubinski and Leo Early Accompanied CHMBC Deacons Fells, Cook and Johnson on a spring inspection tour of the Grande building.The winter, having been particularly harsh, has been hard on the building. Water and thaw-freeze cycling has caused two 6-8 foot limestone cornices or “capstones” to fall to the street and onto a neighboring building. A third section is threatening to do the same. Plaster debris was shoveled off the stairway to the roof. The framing of the doorway to the roof is failing so this exterior door had to be gently pried open to allow access. The Grande actually has two roofs, an exterior “upper roof” and a lower “ballroom ceiling”. Photographs were taken of the upper roof and corner Spanish tile “peaks”. The roof membrane has failed in several sections and water finds easy drainage through these holes. Elbow shaped ventilator shafts have lost their caps to scrappers. It was calculated that this 17000 square foot roof drains 177 gallons during a one inch rain. Detroit averages 2.6 inches of rain per month.
The rear fire escape door was chained (to some degree of success) to limit unauthorized access. A proper job of this will need to be performed in the future. Also, this trip the basement of the building was visited and found to be surprisingly dry!
10-20-2007 – Sanctioned BBC Tour
FOG members led a BBC crew along with John Sinclair through the Grande. This is John’s first time inside in nearly 40 years ! It is, oddly the first time inside for our hosts, the staff of the Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The resultant film, “Motor City’s Burning” airs on the BBC in 2008.
9-14-2007 – State Historic Preservation Office – Review Board – Lansing
Despite the curious events in Detroit on Thursday the 13th, FOG presses forward to Lansing as the Grande Ballroom is on the agenda for the SHPO review board. Rebecca Binno Savage who wrote our nomination, presents the Grande Ballroom to the board. Janese Chapman from the City of Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board also sits on this review board. The board, although enthusiastic about the Grande, is forced to defer to the City and owner approval of the nomination.
9-13-2007 – Historic Designation Advisory Board – City of Detroit
The National Historic Registry Nomination process normally begins with the property owner appearing before the City of Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board. The HDAB forwards any approved properties to the Mayor for signature. The Grande Ballroom was presented to the HDAB on September 13, 2007 by the Friends of the Grande. No response was received by the FOG from the current owners prior to this meeting. 20 + members of the Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, the building’s new owners, appeared for comment. Reverend Smith and the church asked the board for more time to investigate the proposal. The Grande Proposal is Tabled.
8-9-2007 Written notification of Historic Registry efforts sent to Grande Owners.
Rev. Dr. R. LaMont Smith II
Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church
Dear Reverend Smith,
I represent an organization called the Friends of the Grande Ballroom. Our group is a grass roots association engaged in the preservation of Detroit, and specifically the historic legacy of the Grande Ballroom. It is our pleasure to officially notify you of our efforts to submit the Grande Ballroom building to the State of Michigan for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. If approved, this process will place the Grande on the National Register in recognition of its architectural and cultural significance. We hope that this status will be of benefit to you and to your congregation’s expansion plans. We are confident that we will be successful in garnering the nomination and hope to speak to you in person soon. We would also like to wholeheartedly offer our group’s assistance in fund raising and cleanup towards renovation of the building. In the interim, if you have any questions regarding> our efforts, please feel free to call me directly. Sincerely,
The Friends of the Grande Ballroom
10-7-2006 – The Grande Ballroom 40th Anniversary Concert
FOG Members form “Old Stoners” Production company to produce a memorial show at the Royal Oak Music Theater. Held 40 years after the Rock era grand opening, headliners Big Brother and the Holding Company are joined by Canned Heat, Third Power and Arthur Brown. Russ Gibb is guest of honor and is presented with a brass plaque commemorating his contributions.
1-20-2006 – FOG Formed