Ford Auditorium Sculptures, 1956






It was the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s (DSO) Hall for more than three decades. Malcolm X spoke there. Since opening in 1955 on Detroit’s riverfront, Ford Auditorium, which was erected as a memorial to Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, served as a venue for all sorts of events. Outside, the dark-granite façade flecked with blue mica made the edifice scintillate in the sun, and the sides were white marble. But it was the interior that was most arresting. In the foyer were three relief sculptures by Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998). Besides the 120-foot-long Ford Empire, there were two smaller reliefs commissioned by Eleanor Ford (Edsel’s widow). On the west wall was Harlequins (Juggler, Acrobat, and Lovesick Clown) and Circus Parade. On the east wall was Harlequins (Clown Musicians) and Ballerina, Orchestral Parade, pictured here as it was being installed in October 1956. The Harlequin sculptures were hammered and welded in copper, brass, nickel, aluminum, and stainless steel. The DSO left Ford Auditorium for Orchestra Hall in 1989. The Harlequins were dismantled in 2003 and put in storage until 2007, when the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum in Saginaw negotiated with the City of Detroit to have them moved to Groening Commons in Curtiss Hall on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, where they are displayed today. But they first had to be restored. “They were sitting in an empty building [Ford Auditorium], but somebody got to them because there were pieces missing,” says Marilyn L. Wheaton, director of the Fredericks Museum. “Because all of the pieces had been hand-pounded, it took a year [for Detroit’s Venus Bronze Works] to fully restore it,” she says. Wheaton says the massive Ford Empire also needs restoration and is in storage. The final curtain for Ford Auditorium came in July 2011, when it was demolished.

If you enjoy the monthly content in Hour Detroit, "Like" us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter for more frequent updates.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Cybelle Codish Takes Her Stills of Native Americans to the Smithsonian

When the Detroit-based freelance photographer was asked by a friend to shoot stills for a documentary being made on Native-American traditions in New Mexico, Codish saw it as an opportunity to see culture through a different lens.

By the Numbers

Fast facts about some of Michigan’s most iconic brands.

Triple Play

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life — even (or maybe especially) when it comes to exercise.

Two Funny: Keegan-Michael Key

Shrine High and Second City Detroit alum Keegan-Michael Key shines on Comedy Central duo’s ‘Key & Peele.'

Mauna Loa, 1967

The Way It Was
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. An Animated Life
    As Rob Paulsen prepares to publish his memoir, the Hollywood veteran and voice behind some of the...
  2. An Hour With ... Teddy Dorsette III
    President, Detroit Black Deaf Advocates
  3. State of the Arts
  4. Gold Standard
    Tucked into an industrial strip in Ann Arbor, a new restaurant offers French fare
  5. A New Noodle Shop on the Block
    Midtown Detroit welcomes Urban Ramen
  6. Drink Beer, Do Good
    Local breweries and pubs jump on the charity bandwagon
  7. Business Class
    Trim suits, creative layers, and crisp white shirts - Fall's wardrobe essentials are fitting for...
  8. In Tune
    Influenced by its storied past, Willis Show Bar sets the tone for a nostalgic sound
  9. Recipe: Roast Boneless Pork Loin With Tart Cherry Chutney
    Executive chef at Ford’s Garage, Darin Thompson’s boneless pork loin marvel
  10. 13th Annual Best of Detroit Party
    On June 29, Hour Detroit brought the Best of Detroit issue to life at the 13th annual Best of...