Demolition of legendary Gold Dollar in Cass Corridor to begin Thursday

Aug 8, 2019 at 11:49 am
click to enlarge Crews prepare for demolition of the Gold Dollar on Thursday. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Crews prepare for demolition of the Gold Dollar on Thursday.

Demolition is expected to begin Thursday on the legendary Gold Dollar after a suspicious fire gutted the abandoned bar in the Cass Corridor last month.

The Ilitch-owned building was open to trespass before flames tore through the former bar on July 23. By the time firefighters arrived, the building was engulfed. The Ilitch family has declined to speak publicly about the fire.

The squat building between Charlotte and Peterboro streets is three blocks from Little Caesars Arena and is part of an area the Ilitch family has promised to revive but never did. Abandoned buildings on both sides of the Gold Dollar had been demolished before the fire broke out.

Crews were preparing the building for demolition Thursday morning.

The Gold Dollar opened in the 1930s. From 1956 to the late 1980s, it was a popular drag show attraction. In 1996, the bar began booking live music under new ownership.

The Gold Dollar is where the White Stripes played their first show in August 1997. They were among dozens of bands to play on the small, elevated stage.

click to enlarge Jack White performing with the Go at the Gold Dollar in 1999. - Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe
Jack White performing with the Go at the Gold Dollar in 1999.

“The Gold Dollar has become a rite of passage for every aspiring band that comes through Detroit,” Amy Anselm of the band Blush told Metro Times in 2001 when the bar closed. “It is such a shame it is closing its doors.”

The bar has been vacant since, joining the fate of the other buildings on the 3100 block of Cass Avenue. In the past few years, half of the block was bulldozed and remains vacant, despite pledges from the Ilitch family to revive the area with apartments, retail stores, and restaurants.

As the fire raged last month, comments on social media alluded to rumors that the White Stripes’ Jack White hoped to buy the building. These are untrue, says Ben Blackwell, White’s nephew and a co-owner of White's independent label Third Man Records.

Blackwell said the building was dilapidated with “no floor, roof was shot, barely even had four walls.”

“Frankly it should’ve been torn down a long time ago,” Blackwell told Metro Times a day after the fire.

But Blackwell says the memories of the storied club will live on. Third Man has released records of White performing at the venue in various bands.

“History like what happened at that club, for me, transcends the buildings it happened in,” he says. “I’m sure there were probably at least five other fires in Detroit today that were far more tragic. Life goes on, this too shall pass, memories are all that matter.”

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