From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Bonstelle Theatre is the undergraduate
theater used by Wayne State University, and is
located at 3424 Woodward Avenue (the southeast corner of
Woodward and Eliot).
It was originally built in 1902 as the Temple
Beth-El, and was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places in 1982.
When Rabbi Leo M. Franklin first began leading
services of Detroit's Temple Beth El in
1899, he felt that the construction of a new temple building on
Detroit's "Piety Row" stretch of Woodward would increase the
visibility and prestige on Detroit's Jewish community.
Accordingly, in October of 1900, the congregation held a special
meeting at which it was decided to build a new temple.
A site for the new temple was purchased in April of the next year,
and Albert Kahn, a member of the
congregation, was hired to design the building.
Groundbreaking began on November 25, 1901, with the ceremonial
cornerstone laid on April 23, 1902.
The first services were held in the chapel on January 24, 1903, and
the formal dedication was held on September 18-19 of the same
The temple is a Beaux-Arts structure influenced
primarily by Roman and Greek temples. There is a prominent dome
over the main area of the temple, with gabled wings on the north
and south. A pedimented extension on the front once extended into a
porch; the front section of the building was lost when Woodward was
Bonstelle Theatre side view with the name still showing on the back
When the Temple Beth El congregation built another building
farther north along Woodward in 1922, they sold the building at
Woodward and Eliot to Jessie Bonstelle for $500,000.
Bonstelle hired architect C. Howard Crane to convert the building
into a theater, naming the resulting building the Bonstelle
1928, the Bonstelle Playhouse became the Detroit Civic Theatre, and
in the 1930s became the Mayfair Motion Picture Theater. In 1951,
Wayne State University rented the building as a performance space
for its theater company, and purchased it outright in 1956,
renaming it the Bonstelle Theatre in honor of Jessie Bonstelle.
References and further
- Hill, Eric J. and John Gallagher (2002).
AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to
Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN
- Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005).
Detroit and Rome: building on the past. Regents of the
University of Michigan. ISBN 0933691092.