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.

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