It's Back: Renovated Detroit Club in Downtown May Open By January

On some special occasions, when I worked at the Detroit News, the paper would have a celebration over at the Detroit Club at 712 Cass Avenue in downtown Detroit, just blocks from our office. I also remember having lunch there one day with a judge. It was an old school, elite club that had a cozy feel.

Then, with declining membership, it finally closed several years ago and has sat vacant  

Now, the renovated club is poised for a comeback three years after a flood destroyed its interior, reports Kurt Nagl of Crain's Detroit Business. The owners are eyeing a January opening, in time for the North American International Auto Show. 

The historic 40,000-square-foot building, which opened as a club in 1882, is about 95 percent of the way through a multimillion-dollar overhaul by its owners, husband and wife Emre and Lynn Uralli, Nagl reports.

The club is being described as "semi-private." The first floor will  have a 64-seat restaurant open to the public and a separate member's lounge. The top floor and basement will be for members only.

Over the years, the club's members included Henry Ford and Alex Dow, and dignitaries who came there included Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford, and Charles Lindbergh, John D. Rockefeller and the Duke of Windsor.

The following is description the club offered in the day:

Detroit's downtown streets were cobblestone in 1882, when old friends, attorney Samuel T. Douglas and banker/broker James Campbell, met on the corner. They had dined at different restaurants and were walking back to their offices.

Always pleased to see each other, they talked about their hectic schedules and promised to meet for lunch very soon. Then the idea hit them. Why not rent a small house in the neighborhood, hire a first-rate chef and run a club where like-minded people could meet to exchange news, do business, and promote fellowship.

In short order, Douglas and Campbell were able to interest 100 other individuals in the idea and The Detroit Club was born. Those 100 members brought in more members, and after the first year, the Club outgrew its clubhouse on Lafayette and moved to larger quarters on nearby Fort Street.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the flourishing Club moved into its present clubhouse at the corner of Fort and Cass. Designed by renowned architect Wilson Eyre Jr. of Philadelphia, the four-story brick and stone Romanesque Revival building has served as the stage for many dramatic events of Twentieth Century Detroit.

The organizational meeting for the Automobile Club of Detroit (forerunner of the Automobile Club of Michigan) was held at the Club in 1902.

In Fall 1922, everyone was wondering whom Governor Alex Groesbeck would call on to fill the unexpired seat of U.S. Senator Truman Newberry. After weeks of strategy sessions, he summoned Detroit Mayor James Couzens to The Detroit Club and the answer was clear.

Eight years later, Michigan Governor Fred Green and Detroit bank presidents gathered around a table at The Detroit Club to draft their statement closing the city's banks. And after a series of meetings in 1944 and 1945 on the private fourth floor of the Club, Henry Ford II reclaimed control of his grandfather's company from Harry Bennett.

Through the years, The Detroit Club has been the setting for pivotal events in the life of Detroit and the nation. In the main dining room Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca launched his campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty and develop Ellis Island into a museum honoring the contributions of America's immigrants.

After his inauguration on New Year's Day 1994, Mayor Dennis Archer made his first stop The Detroit Club where he toasted the future, setting the tone for the rebirth of the city.

Over the years, the prestigious Club has welcomed leaders of the community and continues to offer a haven conducive to making decisions, entertaining special guests, hosting special occasions or just having fun.

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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