Legendary, Ilitch-owned Gold Dollar is demolished after suspicious fire


A crew demolishes the Gold Dollar in the Cass Corridor. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • A crew demolishes the Gold Dollar in the Cass Corridor.

The legendary Gold Dollar, a longtime drag show attraction-turned music venue, was demolished Monday after a suspicious fire gutted the Cass Corridor bar last month.

The venue, where the White Stripes played their first show in August 1997, closed for good in 2001. The Ilitch family eventually bought the building, left it open to trespass, and demolished the buildings around it. It's not yet clear what they plan to do with the land, but if the past is any indication, it could become yet another parking lot.

Since the Ilitches received more than $175 million in captured tax dollars to build the nearby Little Caesars Arena, more than 15 buildings have been demolished. Several large apartment buildings around the arena were never renovated as promised.

A small demolition crew flattened the fire-gutted Gold Dollar late Monday afternoon.

The Detroit Fire Department is still investigating the blaze, which broke out around 8 p.m. on July 22. By the time firefighters arrived, flames were tearing through the roof.

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 White Stripes were among dozens of bands to play on the small, elevated stage.

“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.” 

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 crumbling stage before the fire. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • The crumbling stage before the fire.

Flames engulf the Gold Dollar on July 22. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Flames engulf the Gold Dollar on July 22.

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