Detroit’s oldest private social club is welcoming new members, dining guests and the next chapter in history.
By Kyla Heat
The unsuspecting brown brick building that sits on the corner of Cass Avenue and West Fort Street is full of Detroit history. The multimillion-dollar renovation of the four-story Detroit Club, the city’s oldest private social club that reopened its doors in January, has the same feel of the original 1891 version, with a luxurious interior to match.
Founded in 1882 by lawyer Samuel Douglas and broker James T. Campbell, club members originally met in a small house on Lafayette Street. As membership expanded, the club moved to its current location in 1891.
New owners Emre Uralli and Lynn Kassotis Uralli purchased the historic 45,000-square-foot club in 2014. Since then, the husband and wife from Grosse Pointe have worked diligently to update nearly every room in the building.
“We wanted to keep the integrity as close to the originality and time and era when it was created,” Kassotis Uralli says. “We want you to feel as if you were walking into something 100 years ago and feel special.”
Once inside, it’s no longer Detroit, but a European escape with all the amenities to make anyone feel like they are on vacation. With the original design mixed with modern decor, each floor of the Detroit Club has a personality of its own.
The first floor houses the Grille Room, a 64-seat dining area open to the public for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. This is the only area non-members can occupy. The Grille Room offers a varied menu, including a club burger, steaks and lunch portions.
“We offer a worldly menu. A favorite so far is the steamed mussels with coconut milk, green curry, ginger and garlic,” says Regina Peter, Detroit Club director of sales and marketing. “Also, the lamb shank with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables is a great warm dish.”
The main floor also features a great room for members to enjoy cocktails and appetizers, and a library, the only place laptops and tablets can be used. All calls must be made in two private phone booths, which are original to club.
Peter says women’s restrooms were added during the recent renovation. When the club originally opened, women were prohibited. Years later, women were only allowed to attend certain events at the club as long as their husbands were members. It wasn’t until the late ’70s that membership opened to women.
Even with all the updates, it was important to the Urallis to maintain the vintage European style of the Detroit Club.
“When you walk in, there are obviously some new elements that need to be new, but you can see that you are walking into a time warp and that was the intent,” Kassotis Uralli says. “Members say they love what we have done and that we have kept as much history as possible.”
The most noticeable update is the basement. Previously a storage space with walls covered in white plaster, the basement has been transformed into a spa with its original brick walling and doorway arches. Amenities include a state-of-the-art gym, 15-person co-ed Jacuzzi, two private massage rooms, a men’s and women’s sauna and locker rooms.
The second floor houses ballroom space for special events and weddings, accommodating up to 120 guests.
A swanky cigar bar and a billiards room sits across from the Presidential Ballroom on the third floor. It is said that four sitting presidents including Truman, Hoover, Roosevelt and Eisenhower visited the Detroit Club in its 135-year history. Detroit notables who frequented the club included Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, James J. Couzens, Edsel B. Ford and Lee Iacocca.
On the fourth floor, members and their family and friends have access to 10 lavish suites. Most are decorated with jaguar print carpet, and all are furnished with clawfoot tubs, lush bedding and smart televisions.
The club is accepting new members, but the cap is at 300. So far, the club has more than 200 members. The number may increase to 500, depending on demand, Peter says.
To become a member of the Detroit Club, candidates go through an interview process and meet with current members. If chosen, new members will pay a $3,500 initiation fee with monthly dues of $250 a month.
For Kassotis Uralli, the reopening of the Detroit Club is one more part of Detroit’s resurgence.
“To be able to walk into this building and bring it all back … I can’t explain the feeling. I love this building, and people want to be a part it,” she says. “It will be fun to mix the new and the young, the younger and the older.”
712 Cass Ave., Detroit
For reservations at the Grille Room call 313-338-3222.
Apply for membership at thedetroitclub.com.