Dawn Theater


  • Architecture
  • Interior Design


  • Historic/Reuse
  • Hospitality

Hillsdale, Michigan


a historic movie theater becomes a boutique event venue in the heart of downtown Hillsdale

GWA Dots

Located in downtown Hillsdale, Michigan, the Dawn Theater has been a staple in the community since 1919.  The building’s uses have evolved over time—from its original use as a vaudeville and silent movie theater to a nightclub and music venue—and various modifications to support each use obscured the many distinguishing details of this downtown gem.  After years of disrepair, the Hillsdale Tax Increment Finance Authority purchased the historic theater with the intent of restoring the theater and making it a community institution once again.

from stencils to theater chairs, the details abound

At Studio GWA, we tend to think that preservation and reuse projects require us to be both architects and archaeologists, so to speak, as we uncover original features and incorporate them into the plans.  The Dawn Theater was no different.  Investigative demolition revealed historic stenciling patterns that were original to the 1919 building and begging to be brought back to life.  We recreated the stenciling with an updated palette of neutral tones with navy accents that can coordinate easily with a variety of events.   

flexible event space in a historic theater setting

GWA Dots

The Dawn Theater has been successfully redeveloped into a new yet familiar use to the building: An event venue.  Paying homage to historic craftsmanship in a way that complements the building’s new use is something we pride ourselves in doing.  From community concerts to weddings, the Dawn has been reactivated and its original grandeur is on display, inside and out.

related projects

Grant Hotel

Atlanta, GA

Interior Design

The Grant Building is a ten-story historic structure located in downtown Atlanta. Built in 1898, the building was designed for office use and boasts an elaborate, detailed façade that resembles the Reliance building in downtown Chicago.

Image of the east elevation of the Old McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock, Illinois.

Old McHenry County Courthouse

Woodstock, IL

Architecture, Interior Design, Historic Tax Credit Consulting

Since 1857, the Old McHenry County Courthouse has been the centerpiece of the town square in Woodstock, Illinois. Consisting of the original Courthouse and Sheriff’s house, these landmark buildings are undergoing a complete renovation that will include retail, restaurant, event, and community spaces.

Rockford Public Library

Rockford, IL


The main branch of the Rockford Public Library has been located along the banks of the Rock River since 1902. Prior to the library’s construction the property was used as a gasification site. In order to remediate the site, the existing 88,000 SF structure needed to be removed, which entailed an extensive analysis of current and future needs as well as possible temporary and new locations for the main library.