Whitney's Opera House, Detroit, MI
Magnificent, majestic and massive, Detroit’s old Federal Building and Post Office was a towering palace of government that was more than three decades in the making, took seven years to build — and only 34 years to outgrow.
The city lobbied for a site where C.J. Whitney had built an opera house in 1875. The venue happened to be “the most elaborately equipped playhouse in the city,” and its opulence “nearly upset the plans to use the present site and almost resulted in the selection of the block bounded by Fort, Shelby, Lafayette and Griswold Streets, opposite the City Hall” instead, Malcolm W. Bingay wrote in the Free Press in November 1931. But Whitney sold the building and land to the feds and built himself the Whitney Grand Opera House on Griswold, north of Michigan. It would be renamed the Garrick Theatre and was the site of Harry Houdini’s final performance before his death in 1926.
December 16, 1884 and February 12, 1885