You will see a Michigan Historical marker on the outside
of this attractive building. That marker commemorates the Battle
of Bloody Run that took place on
or very near this site on July 31, 1763. Chief Pontiac defeated British forces
at this location. So many British soldiers were injured or killed that the
creek that ran through here was said to be red with blood. I believe that
a State of Michigan Historical Marker for The Players was put in place inside
the building you see.
The Players Club was organized in 1910 by Detroit men who were interested in both acting and social events. It was organized as and remains a gentlemen’s amateur theater group. Once a month, from October through May, they meet in formal attire. Apparently some or many of them act in skits, while others socialize with their friends. On a regular basis they produce shows, with the members and their colleagues serving as the actors. In the early years, I believe that their performances were given at the Society of Arts and Crafts building on Watson that was razed in about 2005. Quite a few of the Detroit financial elite who earned their fortunes in the late Nineteenth Century or in the vehicle industry in the early decades of the next century were members of the Players. Marijane Levering, in the book cited below, mentions early members, including Henry Joy of Packard Motors, Lem Bowen of the D. M. Ferry Seed Company, Roy Chapin who helped to found Hudson Motors, Lawrence Fisher of the Fisher Brothers, James Couzens who sold his stock in the Ford Motor Company for $29 million in 1919 and Truman Newberry who represented Michigan in the United States Senate.
After World War I, the members of The Players Club had sufficient funds to commission architect William Kapp to design the building you see. It is a two-story, flat-roofed brick building with elaborate decorations inside and out. Albert Kahn encouraged Corrado Parducci to come to Detroit where he became, arguably, the nation’s leading sculptor of stone trim for impressive buildings. Parducci carved the ten gargoyles that project from the roof line of the building you see. They represent comedy and tragedy. I do not know if he also carved the eight gargoyles that are inside the auditorium, representing the jobs of those who work in theaters. Thomas DiLorenzo painted a mural of Shakespeare’s “Seven Stages of Man” above the stage’s proscenium arch. The auditorium facing the stage is tiered so that when members and their friends view performances, they may sit at tables with their libations rather than in the rows of chairs you typically find in a theater. Eight large tapestries were donated and hang in the auditorium. Six of them were painted by local artist Paul Honore, but he died before he finished the last two. Honore, born in Pennsylvania in 1885, studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Art and then with a famous muralist and printmaker, Frank Brangwyn, in London. Honore spend his professional life in Detroit and became a well-known muralist, printmaker and illustrator. He died in 1956. Honore’s Players Club tapestries portray occupations associated with the theater such as crier. There is a tradition for bars at elegant men’s clubs to have an impressive painting of a nude woman hanging about the bar where drinks are poured. The one at the Players Club was painted by a member, John S. Coppin. Kapp, Parducci and Honore were members of this club.
Apparently, membership began to drop in the 1970s and continued to decline in the 1980s. Marijean Levering reports that there was a turnaround in the 1990s and the club is now, as it was eighty some years ago, serving as a successful gentlemen’s amateur theater club. Levering states that 174 men were members in 2005. Their website reports that there are monthly theatrical frolics where members can act and socialize.
Architect: William E. Kapp
Sculptor for stone work: Corrado Parducci
Muralist: Paul Honoré
Architectural style: Sixteenth Century English Renaissance
Date of construction: 1926
Use in 2007: Legitimate theater
Book: Detroit on Stage: The Players Club 1910-2005 by Marijean Levering (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007).
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Places: L1262 Listed August 22, 1985
State of Michigan Historical Marker: Put in place: April 22, 1987. This was once, I believe, located above and just to the left of the entryway at the left side of the Woodward façade. This historical marker is no longer in that location.
National Registry of Historic Places: Listed June 12, 1987
Photograph: Ren Farley; August 11, 2007
Description prepared: November, 2007
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