U-M’s jazz paradise

The university sublet a parcel of property on Woodward Avenue in Detroit that eventually housed the Graystone Ballroom. (Courtesy of the Detroit News Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

In 1894, University of Michigan alumnus and regent Levi Lewis Barbour gifted the university a patch of property along Woodward Avenue in Detroit. After forgoing plans to build a luxury apartment building on the site, the university sublet the property, leading to the eventual construction of the Graystone Ballroom on the site. The ballroom was a spectacular space, complete with a domed ceiling, a sprawling dance floor, a stage, a state-of-the-art lighting system, a balcony with lounge chairs and divans, and a large mural depicting an old English hunting scene. During its heyday, the ballroom showcased the country’s finest jazz players, including Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington.

— Adapted from “Backstage at the Graystone” by Kim Clarke, U-M Heritage Project 


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.