It’s been three years since the Crofoot Ballroom
project began in earnest, creating one of the more stunning turnarounds
and successes in Metro Detroit today.
Blair McGowan took a
condemned historic building (the oldest commercial structure in Oakland
County) in downtown Pontiac, a Cool
Cities grant, and some ambition and turned them into one of the
hottest new music venues in the region, on par with Detroit’s St.
Andrews Hall and the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. The Crofoot Ballroom now
has 50 employees (up from 25 when the project started) and three
interns. He expects to hire even more people this year as he continues
to expand his business.
“The word is out that the Crofoot is here
and it’s a beautiful venue,” says McGowan, who also helped start St. Andrews
Hall and Clutch
Cargoes in Pontiac. “It has great sound and lights. People
The musical venue features rock bands, hip hop
groups, electronic DJs, and a host of other music genres popular with
today’s youth. It is branching out and bringing more shows to places
like the Compuware
Arena in Plymouth, MOCAD and CAID in Detroit, and The
Factory in Rochester. The Crofoot is also experiencing a good bit
of growth from helping some smaller bands grow by letting them play on
the building’s smaller stage (the Pike Room), the main stage, and then
onto bigger venues like the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
treated them right the first time so they keep coming back,” McGowan
says. He adds that the venue is also hosting other events, such as
wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, political gatherings, and business
meetings. “We’re just responding and it’s working,” McGowan says.
isn’t the first reincarnation for the building at the corner of Pike
and Saginaw streets. In the 1830s the Crofoot
survived a fire that decimated much of downtown. In the 1840s it was
renovated by Michael E Crofoot, a prominent business man who helped
build the 1880s-era Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Detroit.
That resulted in a Mansard roof and Victorian-style tower, which were
eventually removed by World War II. The building nearly fell victim to
1970s urban renewal projects, but survived.
It was abandoned and
on the city’s demolition list as late as 2005 before McGowan saved it.
He restored it much to its 1850s state, preserving a number of interior
details such as old wood beams and brick walls. Today it serves as a
place with an incredible amount of character in a downtown filled with
Source: Blair McGowan, owner of the
Writer: Jon Zemke