In 1885, a chapter of Christian Scientists was founded in Detroit. They met in a variety of locations until 1917 when the magnificent classical building that you see was completed. Apparently, many Christian Science congregations preferred a classical Romanesque style building rather than the Gothic style that was popular, at that time, with many Catholic and Protestant congregations. You will notice the impressive array of eight imposing columns facing Hancock, the attractive stairs and doorways. The auditorium was designed to seat 1,500.
In 1961, the Christian Science congregation sold this building to Wayne State University. The school extensively remodeled the interior to create an elliptical theater seating about 500. It was rebuilt to serve as home to a new repertory company, one that opened in 1964. This is Wayne State University’s graduate repertory company. Undergraduates audition for admission to a three-year program that involves classwork during the days, theatrical performances some evenings and week-ends and leads to a master’s degree in fine arts. The building was named for Clarence Hilberry, the fourth president of Wayne State and a strong supporter of the new repertory company.
Architects: Field, Hinchman and Smith
Date of Construction: 1916
Architectural Style: Neoclassical
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P25097, Listed October 22, 1982
State of Michigan Historical Marker: Placed: September 8, 1982.
National Register of Historic Sites: Not listed
Use in 2006: Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theater
Photograph: Ren Farley, June 2004
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