Townsend Hotel marks its 25th anniversary with renovations, memories

Birmingham hotel's longest-serving employees recall famous faces that have passed through The Townsend

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. - The history of The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham began 25 years ago, with a famous guest who stayed in the hotel before it was officially open to the public.

"Morgan Fairchild was our very first guest. We opened on June 1st, but we actually put her in the house the night before, so she was the only person in the hotel the night before," said Kitty Adler, senior sales manager for the Townsend Hotel.

Adler is one of three employees who has worked at the hotel since it first opened it's doors in 1988.

"We started with Rod Stewart, then Elton John came in, and Michael Jackson and boom, boom, boom. One would check out, the other one would check in, one would check out, the other one would check in for 14 days running. We were crazy and we had no restaurant," said Adler.

The Townsend, located in downtown Birmingham, gained fame by partnering with The Palace of Auburn Hills and providing the accommodations for the entertainers that performed there.   

The hotel's director of catering, Joanie Sams, fondly remembers Bill Cosby.

"I got him all interested in his room, made him a cup of cappuccino and he said 'Where are you going?' And I said 'Excuse me?' and he said 'Sit down. I don't like to be alone so I'll do my skit for you tonight," said Joanie Sams, director of catering.  So I sat there and watched him do his show and then I was  front row at The Palace. He asked me to attend that night., so that was a highlight," said Sams.

Sams has also worked at the hotel since it opened.

Adler remembers Wayne Newton and Billy Joel.

"Wayne Newton was pretty cool, I know that sounds really weird, but he was, he, the man is so tall and when he came through the doors it was like holy smokes," said Adler. "Billy Joel was pretty cool too.  He is an amazing, funny, funny guy and he would play the piano in the lobby and just didn't care, just had a blast."

The hotel employees also recalled big events in their history, including begin the host hotel for the Ryder Cup in 2004, the first one in the United States after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

We went through training as far as if there was going to be a threat and how to handle it and bomb scares and that's all before the teams arrived," said Sams.

Adler said they work hard to know all their guests and understand what they would like during their stay.    

Steven Kalczynski, The Townsend's managing director, said the hotel's standard of service is the same for all guests.

"A Silver Anniversary is certainly noteworthy for a business of any kind, and we are grateful to our loyal local customers, and those guests from around the globe, who have allowed us to host them for the past 25 years," said Steven Kalczynski, managing director of The Townsend Hotel.  "As we approach this milestone, we look to honor the traditions that got us to this point, while we proudly integrate additions and improvements that will get us to the next one."

The hotel said it recently renovated its Rugby Grille complete with a new interior, new wine selection of more than 10,000 bottles and a new menu with local ingredients.   The Townsend also remodeled its Townsend Bakery, several Presidential Suites, and will do more room upgrades later this year.

"Now we feature our wine offerings on a tablet.  So we have over 10,000 bottles, over $140,000 worth of wine that will now offer in the Rugby Grille," said Kalczynski. "It's a very exciting time to be here."

People don't have to be guests of the hotel to enjoy some of the amenities including the Rugby Grille, The Corner Bar, Afternoon Tea at The Townsend and a variety of bakery, banquet and catering services.

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