000A.6 THE PRIVATE MUSEUMS - The Whitney 12.15.13 JPG

 

To call “The Whitney”, in mid-town Detroit, a private museum is not that great a stretch.  The upscale restaurant is housed in what was called “the most elaborate and substantial residence in this part of the country” in its day.  Rarely can one be transported into America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries while feasting on delectable “custom-made” omelets at breakfast, crab cake melts at lunch, scones and cucumber sandwiches at traditional high teas, and lobster stuffed lobsters for dinner amidst the original surroundings of what was “an American palace enjoying the distinction of being the most pretentious modern home in the state (of Michigan) and one of the most elaborate houses in the West”.

 

Commissioned by the lumber baron David Whitney Junior, the wealthiest man in Detroit at the turn of the 19th century, the Whitneys’ three-storey 22,000-square-foot mansion and 6000-square-foot carriage house were designed by the English architect, Gordon W. Lloyd, in the Romanesque Revival style.  The exterior is built of South Dakota jasper, a rare type of pinkish granite that bathes the stones in a rose hue.  The interior consists of 52 rooms and 10 bathrooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces and many dazzling Tiffany stained-glass creations of varying types and sizes.  When completed in 1894, the house was the first residential home in Detroit to have an elevator.  

 

The Great Hall of the house, with its Flemish mosaic English tile floor and its enormous, ornate fireplace, mantelpiece and elaborate bronze balustrade centers all the main floor rooms: the reception room, the drawing room, the music room, the smoking room, the library, with its 7-foot-high bookcases and 10-foot-high, blue-tiled fireplace, and a massive hidden vault.   Since Whitney was a great connoisseur of wood, the house is magnificently “floored” and paneled throughout in a variety of woods that includes white oak, mahogany, bird’s-eye maple, and silver birch.  The walls and ceilings of the vast rooms are decorated in rich silks, French Gobelin tapestries, hand-painted frescoes and wall panels.  Family friend Thomas Edison designed the original electrification of the house.

 

The 41-foot by 17-foot ballroom with its huge Tiffany window is connected to the many family and guest bedroom suites on the second floor.  The third floor was occupied by the Whitneys’ art “gallery”, where their priceless art collection was displayed, more guest bedrooms, and the servants’ quarters.  A paneled billiard room is located in the basement along with the huge heating system that saw the house through the cold Michigan winters.

 

Following the deaths and/or departures of the Whitneys, the house changed hands several times but somehow managed to retain its original splendor.  A former Chrysler executive, Bud Liebler, the present owner, has revitalized the property and keeps it “functioning as a treasured Detroit icon”; a gourmet restaurant in a private museum.

 

Location: 4421 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 18201   Tel: (313) 832-5700

Hours: Monday – Friday: 8:00AM – 10:00PM   Saturday: 5:00PM – 10:00PM                                                                                                                                                      Sunday: 11:00AM – 8:00PM

Admission: Champagne Tours: $10. Monday – Friday at 1:00 and 3:00PM

Reservations are required for all tours and dining.

www.thewhitney.com     www.michigan.org  

 

 

 

 

 

 





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