I finally got to go on an urbex adventure! (Ubex is slang for urban exploration, and pretty much means going into abandoned buildings to explore and take photographs.) There is a lot of urbexing to be had in Detroit and I've been longing to tag along with some urbex photographers. I especially wanted to go to the Eastown Theater, one of Detroit's legendary rock venues from the early 70's, and finally got that opportunity this past weekend. Rob Monaghan a local photographer and really sweet guy, took me there and gave me the grand tour.
Opened in 1930 as a movie theater on Detroit's East side, the Eastown became one of Detroit's premier rock venues in the early 70s. From 1969 to 1972 the Eastown featured bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, The Stooges, Savoy Brown, Procol Harum, Johnny Winter, and many, many more.
This was during my high-school years and I was often taken along to concerts at the Eastown by my boyfriend who was a few years older. Each weekend's lineup would include two or three bands - and the tickets were only about three or four dollars!
The place was always jam-packed and heavy with the scent of pot. The seats on the main floor had been removed, so concertgoers sat on the floor, or stood, or danced. There was always a psychedelic light show that I enjoyed, and an MC who wore a top hat - Stanley T. Madhatter.
I have very distinct and fond memories of the Eastown and it's sad to see the shape it's in now. It's beyond saving. I'm sure it will be razed, or simply fall down sometime soon. I wish I'd gotten in there to look around before it got as bad as it has, but I'm grateful for the visit just the same.
Following a 1973 expose in the Detroit Free Press about the easy availability of drugs in the Eastown, it was forced to shut down by the City of Detroit for failing to meet health and safety codes. After that it briefly became a jazz venue, then a performing arts space, and in the 90s it hosted raves, but its mostly been left to rot. There are holes in the roof, it's littered with trash, it's wet, stinking, and raped of it's metal by scrappers. I was amazed that the ceiling above the balcony was still in such nice shape:
I was intrigued with the idea of walking into an abandoned building, and I was thrilled to be inside the Eastown, but I must admit I had moments of wondering "what the hell am I doing?!" while there. The lobby and halls are dark and littered with who knows what ( I learned that a flashlight is an essential tool for an urbex explorer,) and I'm sure I was breathing asbestos. My first urbex experience might well be my last. I mean, is this something a grandma should be doing?!
Here's the Eastown on the day of it's grand opening as a movie theater in 1931:
The Eastown as I remember it:
The Eastown today:
After exploring the Eastown, Rob took me to the ruins of the Packard Automobile Plant - but that will have to wait for Part Two of "Hilarywho: Urban Adventurer" ! Stay tuned.