dyc

Detroit Yacht Club

Image: George D. Mason and Co., “1922, D.Y.C., Coffee Rm., 231,” 1922, Photograph.

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The morning sunlight pours into the high ceilinged room. The photograph above, taken on behalf of architect George D. Mason, captures the newly furnished coffee room for the Detroit Yacht Club in 1922. Mason designed several significant buildings in Detroit, including not only the Yacht Club but also the Grand Hotel, Detroit Masonic Temple and the Gem Theatre in Detroit.  A collection of photos of the clubhouse from 1922 reveal a lounge, kitchen, pool, nursery, grill, library, dining room, ball room, and billiards room. The Mediterranean Revival-styled design was extremely extravagant, costing more than one million dollars.  The photo of the coffee room showcases this style, with its arched windows, simple ornamentation, and even décor of small palm trees.  The windows look out to the club’s docks on the Detroit River.  It is a scene of grandeur and a leisurely morning. The Detroit Yacht Club has become one  of the most emblematic features of Belle Isle. The Club itself was founded in the late 1860s, though it did not get its magnificent building until the stock market boom of the 1920s brought new wealth to the city. With the completion of the club house, membership grew and the Detroit Yacht Club became a Mecca for hydroplane racing and other water sport enthusiasts. The meteoric rise of the Yacht Club in the early 1920s was followed by an equally abrupt decline with beginning of the Great Depression. For years after the opening of the clubhouse in 1923, the Detroit Yacht Club held its prestige as a club for Detroit boaters (all male). It has been termed as the “Jewel of Belle Isle.”  The Club saw a huge decline in membership during the Great Depression, but then its usage was restored by the 1940s.  However, the DYC has always been maintained as a symbol of privilege and exclusivity, especially racially.  Black members were rejected until the 1970s, and the high monthly membership dues exclude members of the working class who cannot afford this luxury.  As Belle Isle’s maintenance waned in the late twentieth century, the DYC’s membership declined, leading to the creation of the non-profit Detroit Yacht Club Foundation in 2012. The organization aims to support the Club’s preservation and restoration.  Although there are still members, the usage of the club has gone from that of recreation to that of restoration and historical education.

  • “Detroit Yacht Club Foundation to Launch Operations With Inaugural Gala ‘Restoring the Grandeur’,” New York PR swire, November 15, 2012.

Click here to see all narratives about Belle Isle

Click here for more information about Belle Isle’s architectural features

Click here to see resources for further reading on Belle Isle

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