Temple Theatre (Saginaw, Michigan)
The Temple Theatre is a historic theater built by the Elf Khurafeh Shriners in 1926 and opened in 1927 in Saginaw, Michigan. The theater was restored in late 2002 and reopened under new owners to host various events in the Saginaw area. These consist of events inside the theatre as well as the other floors within the theatre. These events range from band concerts to wedding receptions, comedy shows and everything in between.  It is known as the “Showplace of Northeastern Michigan.”
In the year 1926, Saginaw was without a concert hall after the Conservatory of Music had burned down. The city was growing and the Elf Khurafeh Shrine was planning to build a Temple and move from the Masonic Lodge building across the street from the proposed site. At this same time Colonel W. S. Butterfield, head of the Butterfield Theatre chain, was looking to build a flagship theatre for his chain in Saginaw. When the Colonel met the Shrine who planned to build an auditorium as part of their temple, the die was cast. Collaboration was formed with the Shrine and Butterfield who agreed to furnish and lease the theatre for 30 years.
Architects, Osgood and Osgood of Grand Rapids, Michigan were hired to design the new structure and to include the latest in technology. Notable among the features of the building are fireproof construction, geo-thermal cooling of the auditorium, spectacular acoustics and state of the art stage rigging and dimming systems for the lights.
Henry C. Webber Construction Company of Bay City, Michigan was the successful bidder and contracted to construct the facility. There were only six months from the breaking of ground until the Butterfield Company began to install the theatre equipment. This is a remarkable accomplishment in that day. The structure and furnishings were completed and a grand opening was held on July 28, 1927.
History and decline
The programming of the theatre was a combination of live Vaudeville acts and a Photoplay, commonly called a silent movie. A ten-piece orchestra under the direction of Joe Abbenante played live accompaniments to the vaudeville and screen attractions. The theatre was also equipped with one of the 12 Butterfield Special Barton Pipe Organs; #195 built specifically for this theatre. The organ remains and is preserved in original playing condition. This instrument is played prior to many events held in the theatre to this day.
As time passed the theatre experienced a decline in the interest of vaudeville, patrons tastes were changing to the sounds of big band, wide screen motion pictures and live national appearances. The Temple was quick to supply the community with the entertainment it was yearning for. However, the theatre encountered competition as newer more modern facilities opened.
Several individuals tried to revive the facility but despite their efforts, the Temple was weakening at her 75th birthday experiencing a failing boiler system from 1927, which had burst pipes and many leaks. The roof was deteriorating with water leaking through and damaging plasterwork in the theatre, destroying walls and the domed ceiling, crumbling plaster appeared along the stairways. Seats on the main level were chipped and torn, all of the carpet was worn, and the electrical system, from 1927, was overloaded and not large enough to handle the amount of electricity required to operate the theatre. Without heat in the building, one more winter would have drained the Temple of its lifeblood.
The theatre was now facing demolition.
Restoration and present day
In 2002, the family of Dr. Samuel Shaheen purchased the Temple Theatre and the adjoining three story building which contains a Grand Ballroom, Premier Room, Leopard Lounge and a commercial kitchen. After an investment of more than seven million dollars the “Showplace of Northeastern Michigan” has been returned to her original glory.
The Temple just celebrated her 80th Anniversary showcasing the original colors and textures applied in 1927. Gold leafing, the original pink marble imported from Georgia, the phone at the entrance of the theatre, and hand painted details throughout the entire building add grandeur and intrigue while restoring the Theatre’s much deserved elegance. Since the renovation the Temple has hosted many National artists/shows including: LeAnn Rimes, B.B. King, Jewel, Garrison Keillor, Anita Baker, Menopause the Musical, Dora the Explorer, Jose Feliciano and George Carlin.
The must see on any tour is, yup, you guessed it the newly renovated, illustrious womens bathroom. The Temple has once again reigned her title as the “Showplace of Northeastern Michigan.”
The Temple Theatre and Event Center offers:
- Theatre Seating for 1,750
- A quality reputation and favorite destination among Mid-Michigan residents
- Prestige, distinction and honor for the audience, presenters and sponsors
- Lounge, Ballroom and Premier Room
- The only Barton Butterfield Special organ in original condition
- 2005 Governor Award for Historic Preservation
- Michigan Historic Preservation Network 2006 Building Award
- Saginaw Arts and Enrichment Commission-All Area Arts-Special Project Award
- PRIDE Saginaw Preservation Award
- Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Saginaw Award