The Stratford Theater

The Dix Theater Company was incorporated under the laws of the State of Michigan, with a capital stock of $75,000.00, divided into 7500 common shares, with dividends to be paid monthly. Its officers included, "men whose integrity is unquestioned and whose personal efforts have won them an enviable place in commercial lines in Detroit." This quote comes from a copy of the company's stock prospectus.

Among its officers were Fred A. Schneider, President, who was the originator of the Dix Avenue Improvement Assoc., and Joseph N. Schneider, Treasurer, who for a number of years had been successfully identified with Dix Avenue commercial activities.

"Located at the junction of Dix (now W. Vernor Hwy.) and Fedinand Avenues, on one of the few thriving business arteries of our big West Side, in the heart of a well populated residential section. Six large schools were in this territory, an immense manufacturing district immediately to the south, and the theater-going public numbers upward of 60,000 people."

The building itself has a frontage of 60 feet and a depth of 139 feet, and is constructed with steel frame and reinforced concrete floors and roof. Its facade followed the Italian Renaissance period of architecture, and the interior decoration was carried out in the "Adam" style. Joseph Peter Jogerst of Detroit was the architect. The main floor seated 986 people including 36 box seats, with 115 additional box seats on the mezzanine. It contained an orchestra pit, for this was the age of silent films with live musical accompaniment. It also had a stage that was 58 x 17 in size, "fully equipped to handle almost any act now produced on the speaking stage."

While the stock prospectus does not contain a reference to a specific year it does contain the following informative statement: "The growth of the business since it was first launched NOT TEN TEARS AGO is little short of marvelous. From the questionable venture, the "Nickel Show," located in a remodeled store, the industry has developed so rapidly and so consistently that it is now the fourth largest business in the country."

The first establishment set up specifically for the showing of motion pictures was in Los Angeles in 1902. The first motion picture to tell a story was the Great Train Robbery by the Edison Company in 1903. The nickelodeon theaters grew to upwards of 10,000 between 1905 and 1915. The tern nickelodeon is derived from nickel, the price of admission, and odeon, the French word for theater. After about 1910, enterprising theater owners realised that films were more than a novelty. Movies were here to stay and were more profitable than vaudeville and stage productions. The age of the Movie palace had dawned!

I will post soon a rendering of the Stratford Theater from "the architect's drawing . . . taken from the stock prospectus. It was estimated at the time (circa 1915) that it would cost $60,000 for the building and the projection equipment." Accompanying this drawing will also be a copy of a photo "taken in the spring of 1969" showing a different facade with windows covered and possessing some decorative stonework.

This sketch is reproduced verbatim from notes provided by Richard L. Schneider, Buffalo Grove, IL.

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