Historic Structures

History of Architect C. Howard Crane Orchestra Hall (Paradise Theatre), Detroit Michigan

Charles Howard Crane was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 13, 1885, and began is career in that city as a draftsman in 1904. The following year he moved to Detroit where he was employed in the large architectural offices of Albert Kahn, and Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls, respectively, prior to entering independent practice in 1909. From the beginning, Crane specialized in the design of theatres, and by the end of his 23-year practice in Detroit he had to his credit some 250 theatres throughout the United States and Canada, including 50 in Detroit alone. Among his works were the Adams, Alhambra, Bonstelle, Broadway Strand, Capitol, Casino, Colonial, Columbia, Empress, Fine Arts, Fox, Kramer, Liberty, Madison, Majestic, Palace, Palms-State, Rialto, and United Artists theatres, and Orchestra Hall in Detroit; Fox theatres in Brooklyn, Oakland, and St. Louis; United Artists theatres in Los Angeles and Chicago; the Roosevelt, Selwyn, and Harris theatres in Chicago; the Allen Theatre in Cleveland; the Earle in Washington, B.C.; the Music Box and Guild (now ANYA) theatres in New York City; and the Macomb Theatre in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. This last was built in 1921, shortly after Orchestra Hall, and in appearance is a smaller edition of it, seating only 1,000 people, as opposed to Orchestra Hall's 2,000.

With the onset of the Great Depression, Crane moved to England, and in London in the following years designed many theatres in that city as well as the vast Earl's Court sports and amusement center, which could accommodate up to 23,000 spectators. During and after World War II, Crane turned his talents to the design of industrial structures in the massive rebuilding and modernization of British industry that took place at that time. Crane died in London, on August 14, 1952, aged 67 years.

During his years in Detroit, Crane stood at the peak of his profession as a theatre designer. His works are notable, particularly for their size and architectural variety. Few of the leading theatre designers had the opportunity to match the sheer vastness of Crane's Fox designs for Detroit and St. Louis, the largest theatres in the country at that time.

Unlike most theatre architects of the day, C. Howard Crane neither developed nor limited himself to a personal style. His designers were completely eclectic, working with equal ease in French, Italian, or Spanish Renaissance details, in the more exotic Middle or Far Eastern styles, in the delicate Adamesque, or in a rich combination, as for example in the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, where various disparate styles are blended together.