Source: Cinema Treasures
This theater was named for jazz great Duke Ellington and was part of the Wisper and Wetsman circuit, seating about 1500. It was designed by Charles N. Agree in late Streamline Moderne style. Though construction was planned before America's entry into WWII in 1941, construction did not actually get underway until 1946, and the $300,000 theater opened in early 1947. By this time, however, the television era had begun, unfortunately for the Duke, which lasted less than six years before Wisper and Wetsman closed it due to steeply declining attendance. Later gutted and used for a warehouse, the Duke was demolished long ago.
Source: Metro Times
This oblong-shaped building stands as a giant in Royal Oak Township’s meager 0.7 square miles. The 17,200-square-foot property, located at 10060 W. Eight Mile near Wyoming, is located in the heart of the area covered by the township’s evolving Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Once the popular Duke Theater, it is now the largest abandoned property in the DDA. The building has also housed a bowling alley, roller-skating rink, and most recently, Squire Bartlett Supply Co. Property owner Robert Bartlett purchased the property in 1980, and eventually sold his business. The business went bankrupt around 1997, leaving the building vacant.
“It was an integral part of our community,” says Royal Oak Township Supervisor Jerry Saddler. “That building, as an institution in our community, stands for itself.” A 1999 appraisal valued the property at $520,000. Between $17,000 and $20,000 in roof and other repairs would be necessary to renovate the building. Robert Wheaton, who concentrates on development for the township, says a new business would play an integral role in the small business district. The property is zoned community business, which allows for a large variety of potential developments.
Wheaton says the DDA area, which is already lined with grocery and liquor stores and car dealerships, needs to see some creative uses for the property. “I couldn’t find anything short of industrial that the zoning ordinance would prohibit being placed on that site. It’s very wide-open [in terms of] what could be placed there,” he says. Nancy Bartlett, Robert Bartlett’s wife, says offers for the site have rolled in, including proposals for a figure skating academy, an alcohol-free teen club, a furniture store and an indoor youth basketball court.
Another developer sought to level the building and construct an auto parts store. The problem is that most people looking to use the property want to lease, not buy, and the Bartletts want to sell. They’re asking $600,000 for the property. “I just want it to go away,” says Nancy Bartlett.