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Iconic Detroit Building of the Week: The Alger Theater

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Building: The Alger Theater
Facts: The Alger theater was built in 1935 by developers Saul and Hattie Sloan, who leased it to Detroit cinema and radio magnate George Washington Trendle. The theater just celebrated its 80th anniversary last month—it opened to the public on August 22, 1935. The Alger was one of the first luxury theaters in Michigan, with air conditioning and sound projection. The 825-seat art moderne theater operated continuously from 1935 to 1975.

Hollywood connections: On opening night in 1935, the theater showed a couple bill of The Girl From 10th Avenue and Oil for the Lamps of China. In June, when the theater opened to moviegoers for the first time in 30 years, the feature was Young Frankenstein.

Deco touches: the theater's sconces, famous sign and metal ceilings are all typical of art deco, and especially of streamline moderne, a subset of deco known for its hallmark curved lines. Detroit has a number of streamline moderne structures, including a 1929 home in Palmer Woods we wrote about last year that sold for around $300K.

History: After the Sloans constructed the Alger, they sold to Trendle, who not only owned a number of theaters and WXYZ radio, he was also the original producer and developer of The Lone Ranger. Trendle made $3 million selling the rights to the Lone Ranger, and also helped develop the Green Hornet for radio. Despite his savvy business decisions and the success of the Alger and WXYZ, Trendle had a reputation as a cheapskate who'd threaten to fire employees who asked for raises.

Recent events: Friends of the Alger Theater, the nonprofit community group that purchased the building in 1986, wants to fully renovate and restore the theater, and to add a rooftop garden/event area for concerts, parties and other performances. To date, the group has done a cleanup of the building. The theater's Patronicity campaign has raised over $19,000 of the $25K needed to obtain matching funds for the restoration from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In June, the theater screened Young Frankenstein as part of a series of "Brew & View" fundraising events.

Southfield-based automotive manufacturer Lear Corporation underwrote some of the cleanup and provided volunteers for the work. Lear made news last week when it purchased the Hemmeter Building, another historic Detroit structure. The deadline for the Alger's Patronicity matching funds campaign is Sept 30 at 11:59 pm.

Note: Is there a great building you'd like to see featured? Send photographs and ideas to for inclusion in upcoming entries in this series.

·Trendel, George W [Detroit Historical Society]
·The Alger Theater: Restoring a Community Hub [Patronicity]
·Alger Theater to screen its first movie in 30 years [Metro Times]
·Lear Buys Downtown Building for Satellite HQ [Curbed Detroit]
·Amazing Art Moderne Estate Asks $299K in Palmer Woods [Curbed Detroit]
·The Alger Theater [Friends of the Alger Theater]
·Alger Theater Seeks Public Support for Restoration
[Curbed Detroit]