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{GHQ} Come Dancing: The Grande Ballroom Mystery Cache

Hidden : 03/29/2013
2 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   micro (micro)

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Geocache Description:

The Geocaching History Quest is a series of caches that are at or near important historical sites that can include the places, people, or events that are part of local, regional, national, or international history.  These caches should be a good lesson of the rich history and better understanding for anyone that visits the area that the caches bring you to.  This history surrounds us almost everywhere we go and hopefully will not be forgotten through our stories and caches that are part of each and every one of us.

As always, with ANY geocache hunt, PERSONAL SAFETY is of the utmost
importance and BE AWARE of your surroundings at all times.


This cache is NOT at posted-coordinates.
DO NOT go INSIDE the building looking for this cache.

The puzzle is designed to give you some history about a very
important part of Detroit's Entertainment past...and hopefully future.

You must sign the log to claim the find. Thank you!


This cache is a "sister" cache to:
GC45W7G - Come Dancing: The Vanity Ballroom

"...Come dancing
Come on, sister
Have yourself a ball
Don't be afraid
To come dancing
It's only natural

Come dancing
Just like the palais on a Saturday
And all her friends will come dancing
Where the big band used to play..."

- Excerpt from the lyrics to "Come Dancing"
by the Kinks (US release 1983)

The Grande Ballroom
Open: 1928 - Closed: 1972

September 1928 view of the Grande Ballroom

In the 1920s, six extraordinary ballrooms were built in Detroit--the Graystone, the Grande, the Jefferson Beach, the Mirror, the Monticello and the Vanity. Patrons went to these spectacular ballrooms to socialize, dance, listen to various performers and bands over the many years that these ballrooms were open.

There was an ongoing contest between architects to create flashy and innovative ballrooms for the public to enjoy. Aztec and Totec motifs were often used which made patrons feel that they were entering a fantasy world within these well-designed and fantastic-decor venues.

Blueprint drawings by Charles Agree (1928)

The Grande was designed by Charles N. Agree, architect, for Edward J. Strata and his partner Edward J. Davis, who managed the Grande and the Vanity Ballrooms for many years. The Grande Ballroom was owned by Harry Weitzman.

The Grande ballroom started off in the late-1920's as a place for Detroiters to dance, listen to Jazz and the Big Bands of the era, and just "hang out" with folks that loved to dance and have a good time. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, it would gain "immortal" status in the legends of the music industry as it would evolve into a Rock & Roll venue with the likes of the MC5 and the Stooges playing their punk and hard-driving sounds.

Architectural details of the Grande Ballroom (recent photo)

Janis Joplin, The Who, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead these are names that have been a part of our musical culture for generations. All of them are legends and many are fixtures in our collective musical psyche. But there was a time when these artists and many others were virtual unknowns, with careers in their mere infancy. The Grande Ballroom is one of the hallowed halls of contemporary music and was instrumental in giving birth to many of these timeless acts.

The Grande's roots were musical, and it's walls echoed the sounds of the times. Those that performed there cut their chops and many became legends.

Roof blueprints of the Grande, 1928

The Grande's building was designed in the style of Moorish Deco. Much like it's later-built sister the Vanity, the second-floor was where the dance floor was with retail shops contained below. The Ballroom had Moorish arches and the outstanding hardwood floor was on springs that gave the dancers a feeling of "floating" in air. Capacity of the floor was 1,500 dancers and was one of the largest in the City of Detroit. The ground-floor retail tenants included W.T. Grant Department Stores, Beverly's, and a drugstore. The neighborhood was mainly home to many Jewish families back in the 1930's and 1940's.

The Grande had shops on the first floor, and dancing on the second. December 12, 1944 Photo

If you lived on the West Side, the Grande Ballroom at Grand River and Joy Road was "the place" for young Detroiters to go and hang-out. If you lived on the East Side, you'd probably go to the Vanity Ballroom on Jefferson and Newport. Strata and Davis invested approximately $500,000 into both the Grande and the Vanity, including land, building materials, and contents, which would be approximately $6.2-million dollars in 2013 values.

The Vanity on Jefferson opened a little later in 1929 than the Grande and both places were popular practically from the get-go. Throughout the years the ballrooms featured jazz, ballroom dancing and big bands and the popularity of the venues was strong, even through the early 1940's when World War II broke-out in Europe.

Polished and spacious floors awaited and welcomed dancers to the Vanity Ballroom. Similar floor was installed at the Grande.

Both ballrooms were home to dance steps known as the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot, and the Grizzly Bear. There would also be "theme nights" and even Inter-Parish nights to attract the dancing public.  The Grande was reputed to have one of the most appealing dance floors in the city, and one of the largest in the country.

After the war, styles and tastes in entertainment began to change and dance halls attempted to keep up and change with the times, but it was a difficult task to be sure. Americans’ entertainment habits had changed and some folks blamed jukeboxes and records. Others blamed shifts in jazz, like bebop, which turned dancers into listeners.

Grande Ballroom Marquee, 1950's

The 1950's came and saw a management change at the Grande Ballroom in 1955 with Mr. and Mrs. John T. Hayes taking control and "doing their best to revive it,” according to the Detroit News in September 1957. Radio and television had “altered entertainment habits” and attendance at the Grande had fallen off dramatically. But the couple were determined to keep ballroom dancing alive, hosting live music on Friday and Saturday evenings that catered to 17- to 30-year-olds, many from church and social groups. Fridays were “get acquainted” nights. Saturdays were for dating or married couples and often got up to 700 couples a night. The Dress-Code standards were increased and Men had to wear sport coats, ties and shirts.

Jazz Artist Sun Ra (1992)

During this time, the Grande featured the avant garde jazz of John Coltrane and Sun Ra, who had a good and popular following and many of the patrons would return for more of this style of music over the years.
Mrs. Hayes would act like a chaperone and hostess at the Grande, even going so far as to handle introductions of various patrons to one another for impromptu "get togethers" and wholesome pairings.
It was said that she believed that teenagers of the time were more interested in learning the graceful steps associated with Ballroom Dancing, and would possibly be an asset to them in their future endeavours. She also believed that the Grande's patrons were only "mildly interested" in be-bop and Rock-n-Roll music.

The Big Band era performers on the Stage of the Grande (unknown date)

The dancers at the Grande did the fox trot, tango, waltz and bolero, as well as swing and the Charleston, and she was quoted as saying “the current favorite of our dancers is the Cha Cha Cha.”

The 1950's passed into the 1960's and by 1961, the Grande Ballroom was the only venue in the City of Detroit with any type of dance that resembled what Ballroom Dancing had once been.

Main Entrance, possibly 1976

The Grande Ballroom did not serve any type of liquor as they did not allow drinking on the premises. They were trying to not cater to what Mrs. Hayes called "troublemakers". Many folks found like-minded individuals to date and later marry by attending events and gatherings at the Grande Ballroom.

Unfortunately, this type of attitude was also what led to the Grande's demise as a dance hall. It would close to dancing in the early 1960's to soon become a roller-skating rink and then later-on be used as a storage warehouse for furniture.

1928 (L) and 2010 (R)

This would not be the end for the Grande Ballroom, not by a long-shot. There would be a new beginning soon to unfold and breathe life into the aging Dance Hall. The kind of life that would end up making the Grande Ballroom an immortal part of Detroit's Entertainment and musical history.

The above montage is a collection of Russ Gibb memories that are some of the most noted items in Detroit, as well as musical history. On his desk in front of him, probably his most-noted, and biggest public claim-to-fame: A dead Paul McCartney, along with his underground comic O-Zone, a vynil record for DJ Russ, and an apple and video cassette for Teacher Russ. Above him is the 25th Hour clock, Iggy Pop is on the video screen, Nellie Lutcher (who was an African-American R&B and jazz singer and pianist) looks over his shoulder as do his students. On the wall are flyers from The Grande Ballroom and band flyers from local Detroit talent he promoted. Felix The Cat, the mascot of his classroom, watches over him.

"Uncle" Russ Gibb (born 1931) is a former concert promoter, and media personality from Dearborn, Michigan, probably most famous for his role in the Paul is Dead phenomenon, a story he broke as a DJ on WKNR-FM. Prior to this, he went out to Calfornia to visit a friend and attended a concert by "The Byrds" at the popular Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.

Russ Gibb, 1960's

When he returned to the Motor City, he had a mission. That mission was to try to bring the essence of the Fillmore to Motown and that mission began with scouting some of the local venues to see what would work to accomplish this. He checked several places and finally settled on the Grande, which was near where Russ had grown-up in the 1940's, and he entered into an agreement to manage. He made an agreement with the Kleinman family to be able to rent-to-buy the Grande, and the mission of bringing new life to the Grande began to take-shape. Other DJ's were asked if they wanted to kick-in on the deal. The response was relatively negative, citing that it was a less-than-desirable neighborhood and that they wholeheartedly believed that it would fail miserably.

The first Grande Ballroom poster for the MC5’s debut appearance
at the venue, designed by Gary Grimshaw, November 1966.

Gibb reached out to the "beatniks" and counter-culture population and worked closely with Detroit counterculture figure and founding member of the MC5 (Motor City Five), John Sinclair, and other counter-culture groups of the time. Gibb would also mold the Grande after popular rock halls on the West Coast like the Fillmore and Whiskey A Go-Go.

A massive screen hung behind the stage at the Grande showing light shows and psychedelic water and oil images. The MC5 wound up being like the anchor of the Grande, playing there every week at least once. The band’s lead singer, Rob Tyner, introduced Gibb to his friend Gary Grimshaw, who would go on to become a legendary graphic artist, made its concert posters and handbills to promote the shows.

Grand Opening 1966

The Grande opened the evening of Oct. 7, 1966, to a crowd of about 60 people turning out to see the Chosen Few and The MC5 and it featured one of the largest strobe lights ever built at the time. The next night, about three times the patrons showed-up. Before long, the rock music and the counter-culture environment started luring kids from the suburbs eager to shed the ties and ditch the hair cream. The Grande became "the embassy for suburban youth" for those that had been moved out of Detroit. The youth began to come to the Grande in the city because it was more interesting. This movement also rubbed-off on other youth...and it began to grow.

Some of the posters for the Grande that included Cream, Yardbirds, The Who, Big Brother Holding Company, just to name a few.

Gibb began to develop and define what came to be known as underground radio in Detroit. It happened almost accidentally and it happened at WKNR-FM. His programs were the carefully conceived antithesis of what was going on at Keener 13. Where Keener featured a tight play-list, rigid formatics and high energy, WKNR-FM featured languid album tracks, eclectic, almost hypnotic talk-sets and spaces between the program elements. The format attracted the exact demographic that Russ was packing in at his Grande Ballroom to hear artists like Iggy Pop and David Bowie, and Russ’ unique relationship with the station made it possible for him to become a rock impresario.

The Grande was now catering to a much different crowd than it ever had been before... much different. It was unlike anything that anyone has seen before and there was a different community attending the Grande and it was gaining popularity again. While the west coast was groovin' to the sounds of the "Summer of Love" in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard driving,gritty and raw sound that was phrased as "LOUDER THAN LOVE".

MC5, Charlie Auringer, 1971

MC5, Charlie Auringer, 1971, Grande

Gibb booked acts like the MC5, the Stooges, The Frost and the Rationals. In 1967, he started booking famous touring acts like Vanilla Fudge, who first performed at the Grande on Dec. 15, 1967. Other acts would soon follow and the acts were just getting better and better as time went on and the crowds getting bigger and bigger as well. It was reported that during the performances the temperatures inside the Grande with the crowds, performers, and all the equipment, would reach in excess of 100-Degrees fahrenheit, even on the coldest of Detroit evenings.

Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Grande Ballroom, Detroit 1968.

Many of the other acts that gave incredible shows at the Grande Ballroom were Led Zeppelin (who played here three consecutive nights, January 17-18-19, 1969), John Lee Hooker, the Yardbirds, Cream, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, the Jeff Beck Group, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, the Velvet Underground, Canned Heat, the Steve Miller Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Blue Cheer, Tim Buckley and more all played the Grande.

Jeff Beck Group, Charlie Auringer, 1969

The change from local acts to internationally-known groups started simply enough with the performance of the New York band "The Fugs" played a couple shows at the Grande. Some of the other international touring bands would make Detroit's Grande Ballroom a stop on their way through heading elsewhere. Sometimes it was just a matter of convenience, using the Grande Ballroom as a sound-test of sorts. Once the word about the Grande's great acoustics and cool people started to spread to English and other overseas bands, the Grande Ballroom became a legend.

In 1967 Cream played the Grande for two nights and one afternoon in October.

The MC5 (a Grande staple band) was gaining national attention and on March 3, 1968 the band Iggy Pop and the Psychodelic Stooges took the stage for the first time at the Grande. Iggy Pop (aka Jim Osterberg) was known for rolling around in broken glass and smearing peanut butter on himself, as well as cutting himself on stage. Iggy Pop was quoted as saying that the Grande "was rock school for me – a big sweatbox with one little window. You’d come out of there feeling like you’d really been through something.”

Pink Floyd, opening for the Who, at the Grande in 1968

The Who was part of one of the more storied shows at the Grande on March 9, 1968. The band was fairly well exhausted after playing large shows in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Once they pulled into Detroit, they took the stage at the Grande to a packed house and when their performance was done, they were convinced they would be successful as they had played their best under the stress of exhaustion.

The Who at the Grande | 1968

The drummer of the MC5, Dennis Thompson, was quoted as saying that the Grande's audiences were "probably the best audiences in the world" and that they were an energy all their own. Ticket prices were only $5 and you could see four bands for that price. The patrons to the Vanity loved music and the hard-driving music was what made them show up. The Grande was usually filled to capacity and then some with 2,500 to 3,000 people who only came for the music, as there was no alcohol there.

Fleetwood Mac at the Grande | 1968

Concert Poster for Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and The Who's July 13th, 1968 show.

In September of 1968, the MC5 and the Stooges both signed deals with Elektra Records and the MC5 announced that there would be an LP Live performance recorded at the Grande, for their debut album. This was unprecedented and the Grande was what made them the band that they were, so the thought was they would try to capture the energy and feel of this band of "Rock and Roll Guerillas". Over two days, October 30 and 31, 1968, the MC5 album "Kick out the Jams" was recorded and has been deemed one of the greatest live albums of all time.

MC5 at the Grande Ballroom 10/30/1968

The Grande had evolved, and the popularity continued to grow. What had started out as a Ballroom Dance facility had turned into "Detroit's Original Rock n' Roll Palace".

1972 arrived and Russ Gibb began booking shows at bigger venues, including the Michigan Theatre (which had then become the Michigan Palace in Downtown Detroit) and also other cities in the Midwest. Gibb was dealing mainly with the agents for many of the bands and wanted to mainly have local bands play, but the deals would include other bands that weren't so well-known and didn't attract the crowds to the Grande as they once had. Like any good business, the income has to be there to be able to keep the business afloat and the Grande just wasn't making the money that it had even a few short years earlier. The decision was made to focus on the bigger, more profitable venues and not so much the Grande Ballroom.
Russ Gibb was quoted as saying "I could do bigger shows with less hassle elsewhere. The scene was changing, and if you’re going to do anything right, you’ve got to be on the crest of change." The change... would mean the end of the almost-constant stream of acts and patrons to the Grande and it's architecturally beautiful decor.

MC5's 'Kick out the Jams' vinyl 45

The Grande Ballroom's final show was on New Year's Eve 1972 and the MC5 performed the show just as they always had with the intensity and energy that would carry them into the books of musical history. This would also be the last show the MC5 would ever perform.

After the venue was closed, the building was hardly used and the neighborhood surrounding it began to show the signs of neglect. A resale shop moved-in for a time, but even that eventually disappeared as well, leaving the building empty and unoccupied.

Main Door, 1970's

The Vanity Ballroom (the location that matched the Grande Ballroom in design but located on Detroit's east side at Jefferson and Newport) would outlast the Grande by a few years. It remained semi-active and continued on until the late 1980's when it would close and begin it's phyiscal decline, like the Grande's, that continues to this day.

A very pixeled & fuzzy logo for the Westland Grande Ballroom, a "teen club" from 1986-1990

In August 1986, a 24-year-old entrepreneur named Rob Cortis was inspired by his parents stories of the dancing and grand times they'd had at the Grande. He tried to start a liquor-free dance club in Westland, MI with the Grande name, complete with doormen dressed in tuxedos, free pizza and refreshments, and top-40 music. This was a swing from the Grande of old when the Ballroom had been a freestyle social atmosphere and Rock-n-Roll.

This didn't last too long and the Grande name disappeared from the landscape of Metro Detroit, but not the hearts, minds, and memories of those that remember.

2003 view of the Grande outside

Ownership of the Ballroom transferred in 2005 from one church to another and in 2006, signs appeared on the old Grande Ballroom building. With a hope that it would finally see life again as something else, people interested in the Grande's history took notice and began to speculate on what was coming for the aging dance hall. Unfortunately, nothing has improved, only worsened for the crumbling building that once rocked music lovers into the wee hours of the morning with internationally-known acts from around the world.

Some of the Spanish-tiles that once covered the roof have dislodged and disappeared, allowing water and the elements to leave their marks on this once-grand palace. The windows have long-since been broken and vandals along with souvenir seekers have left their marks by removing prime architectural details that made the Grande Ballroom what it physically was.

2003 view of the main floor and ceiling.

The leaky roof has allowed the once-hallowed floor has to be eaten-through by the elements as well as allowing the plaster from the ceilings and walls to become concrete-like mounds on the floor. Vandals and scrappers have removed plumbing and any valuable metals and most of the storefronts on the street level have become "dumping grounds" for all sorts of materials and trash.

Some of the detail that was present in the Grande (2010)

To anyone that knew the Grande Ballroom in its glory days, it's an undignified site for such a hallowed part of musical history. The chances of restoration are slim to none but there are thoughts that if one could stand on that stage again, you could almost hear the roar of the applause. Most-likely all you would hear now is the occasional cooing of a pigeon or the wind blowing through an open window.

Panorama of the Grande's main dance floor (2010)

Russ Gibb returned to the Grande in 2008 and was surprised at the state of things and how a place that meant so much to so many, could be in the state it is now... as are many people that remember it from its glory days when it was "The Place to Be".

March 2012 view of the slow decay of the Grande compared to 2010.

The Grande Ballroom, along with many other abandoned places, has been the subject and destination of many "urban explorers" over the years. There are reports and stories of hearing voices, or rock-n-roll music playing (not the kind of music from passing traffic, of course) but nothing has been confirmed or investigated further. Many folks have attributed this to "the paranormal" as the Grande is and was a beloved place to visit. Some have just dismissed it as "unusual sounds" but nothing "worth looking-into more" least not yet. Maybe these sounds are just echoes of the past...the wondrous musical past that rocked these walls and was full of so much energy.

Grande Ballroom from the SouthEast | 3/24/2013

Grande Ballroom closer look at the Southeast corner | 3/24/2013

These Stone Initials appear beneath the windows at each corner of the Grande.
All other windows featured an iron "window box" grating.

They are the first initials of Harry Weitzman's (the original owner) three children.
His children were Clement, Dorothy and Seymour Weitzman.

Grande Ballroom "Main Entrance" | 3/24/2013

Grande Ballroom "Main Entrance" | 3/24/2013

Grande Ballroom from Grand River towards the West | 3/24/2013

A painted tribute to the MC5 on the back door of the Grande | 3/24/2013

What remains today is a place of great architecture and historical significance, and is open for redevelopment. But it doesn't appear to be very intact or even structurally sound. It is missing a lot of it's original decor and paint as well as possibly much of its structural integrity.

The glory days of the big band era in the 1930's and 1940's, and of course the later Rock-n-Roll palace days in the 1960's and 70's still live within these walls, but not much else except for the pigeons and some trees. The original marquee was removed long-ago as a safety-precaution but the Grande Ballroom is truly vanishing from the inside out. The Grande Ballroom and the Vanity Ballroom could see life again given someone with the vision, and finances, to make such a reality happen for these historical places with such a rich and storied musical past, but it's not known at this time if that is even possible or if there is any interest in doing so.

There is at least one documentary regarding the Grande Ballroom, maybe more. There are many groups online and elsewhere that would love to see this Gem of Detroit restored to its former glory. If that never happens, at least the memories will remain.... and those memories will always beckon us to relive those days of grandeur and ask us to "Come Dancing" once again.


The Puzzle: N 42° AB.CDE W 083° ZY.XWV

A: Number of Ballrooms Designed by Charles Agree (in this write-up)

B: Fourth Digit of the year Russ Gibb was born

C: Last Digit of the Year the Grande Ballroom opened.

Ticket prices that would allow you to see four bands were only __(D)__ dollars.

E: Add ONE to the Third Digit of the year of the Summer Of Love

Z: Second Digit of the year the Ownership changed from one church to another.

Y: Third Digit of the year the Grande finally Closed.

X: Fourth Digit of the year there was an article in the Detroit News.

W: Total children of the original owner, subtracted by the number of days Led Zeppelin played consecutively.

V: The Who, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac played the Grande in 1968. Take the first and second digit of the day together, then add THREE to this total to get "V"

To validate your solution, you may check your work below:

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Gur nafjref gb gur chmmyr ner jvguva gur qrfpevcgvba. Gur SVANY vf nggenpgvir.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)