Go inside 'The Detroit Club': City's oldest, most historic club reopens to public after renovations

'The Detroit Club' hosted presidents, iconic business leaders and more

By Alex Atwell - Photojournalist, Ken Haddad

DETROIT - The newly restored "Detroit Club" is reconnecting with its historic roots.

"The Detroit Club" was first formed in 1882 when lawyer Samuel Douglas and Banker James T. Campbell decided to rent a small house on Lafayette Street, to create a space where businessmen could talk shop.

Shortly after opening the club on Lafayette, the private social club recruited one hundred additional businessmen to join, including the founder of the Michigan Telephone Company, Hugh McMillan, and a former Michigan Governor, Russell A. Alger.

Quickly outgrowing its current clubhouse on Lafayette, the members enlisted architect Wilson Eyre to construct their new clubhouse, which would later become one of Detroit's most iconic buildings. Eyre designed a four-story brick and stone, Romanesque Revival, building seated at the corner of Cass and Fort Avenues which was completed in 1891. 

The Detroit Club has remained operational for over a century, making it Detroit's oldest private social club, and one of the most prestigious in the nation. The club celebrated its history, and founding members, by creating an atmosphere rich in tradition and commitment to the revitalization of Detroit. 

The Detroit Club was at the epicenter of numerous, pivotal, events effecting Detroit's, and the Nation's, economic growth, consumerism, and industrialism. In 1902 the Automobile Club of Detroit was formed by both members and non-members during a series of meetings held at The Detroit Club.

This association later led to the dominance of the American automobile industry as we know it today. Spanning the course of a two year period, from 1944 to 1945, Henry Ford II regained control of Ford Motor Company from Harry Bennett while hosting mediations at the club.

The Detroit Club was also used by Lee Iacocca to launch his campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty and develop Ellis Island into a museum. 

Detroit civic leaders have graced the halls of The Detroit Club for decades such as: 

  • Donald M. Dickinson - Lawyer, Former U.S. Postmaster General
  • John Bagley - Former Governor, President of Michigan Mutual Life Insurance
  • Edmund A. Brush - Entrepreneur, Original Developer of 'Brush Park'
  • Christian H. Buhl - Industrialist, Developer, Former Mayor of Detroit
  • James B. Book - Industrialist, Original Developer of the Book Tower
  • Wm. C. Colburn - Builder, President of Detroit Bridge & Iron Works
  • Hazen S. Pingree - Former Governor and Mayor of Detroit
  • James J. Couzens, Philanthropist, Former Mayor of Detroit, Senator
  • Edsel B Ford - President of Ford Motor Company, Son of Henry Ford
  • Walter P. Chrysler - Industrialist, Founder of Chrysler Corporation 
  • James W. Packard - Manufacturer, Founder of Packard Motor Car Company

That's just to name a few. Find out more about the club here and watch Alex Atwell's feature story in the video player above. Starting Wednesday, the club will begin serving lunch. 

Location: 712 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 338-3222

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