The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is hosting a gala fundraiser on Friday, May 4, to continue paying for the restoration and preservation of the historic Detroit Yacht Club boathouse on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is hosting a gala fundraiser on Friday, May 4, to continue paying for the restoration and preservation of the historic Detroit Yacht Club boathouse on Belle Isle.

Photo provided by David Lilly


Detroit Yacht Club Foundation hosts gala to preserve historic clubhouse

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published April 27, 2018

 Work on the Detroit Yacht Club Boat House includes exterior, interior and infrastructure restoration, which has been gradually worked on for six years. The hope is to ensure the boathouse’s survival so future Detroit residents can enjoy the historic site.

Work on the Detroit Yacht Club Boat House includes exterior, interior and infrastructure restoration, which has been gradually worked on for six years. The hope is to ensure the boathouse’s survival so future Detroit residents can enjoy the historic site.

Photo provided by David Lilly

 The Detroit Yacht Club clubhouse has occupied Belle Isle since 1923 and has hosted many of the city’s most influential people throughout its lifetime.

The Detroit Yacht Club clubhouse has occupied Belle Isle since 1923 and has hosted many of the city’s most influential people throughout its lifetime.

Photo provided by David Lilly

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DETROIT — The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is inviting the public to a gala taking place at the historic clubhouse on Belle Isle to support the continued efforts to refurbish and preserve the 95-year-old building.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the site, will be hosting the gala and will welcome members and nonmembers to enjoy what it calls an often overlooked landmark in Detroit history.

Mark Lifter, the president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation, said the primary goal of the fundraiser is to ensure that one of the city’s landmarks continues to stand and serve as a destination and resource for local residents.

“It’s the 150-year anniversary of the yacht club and the 95th anniversary of the clubhouse,” he said. “Belle Isle is currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance right now with so much restoration work and new attractions being done, so the efforts with the gala and our similar programs are to preserve a historic building in Detroit. We don’t want it to fall by the wayside like so many other Detroit landmarks in the past.”

The clubhouse was built in 1923 to serve as a center for the Detroit Yacht Club, which was, for much of its history, an exclusive club. The foundation is seeking to widen the availability of the site so more people can enjoy it.

“The (clubhouse) was built in one of the golden ages of Detroit, in the 1920s,” said Lifter. “We think it’s the largest clubhouse in the country at 93,000 square feet. It was designed by George Mason, who designed masterpieces like the Masonic Temple in Detroit and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It’s built in a Mediterranean style. It’s a precious building, and one of the reasons to attend is to see the clubhouse if you’ve never had a chance. While it’s the yacht club clubhouse, it’s used by thousands of Detroit area residents for things like weddings or receptions.”

Contributing to the historic significance of the site is the multitude of influential figures who were members of the Detroit Yacht Club throughout the years or who took part in events at the clubhouse.

“Among them were the Dodge brothers, various members of the Ford family, other industrialists, mayors and other politicians,” said David Lilly, a spokesperson for the Detroit Yacht Club. “At the height of Detroit’s success throughout the 20th century, the Detroit Yacht Club really was one of the places where local, state and national leaders converged. The gala is about raising funds to ensure that the building remains something that the thousands of Detroiters who visit it every year can be proud of for the next hundred years.”

The gala is open to the public and costs $175 per person to attend. Tickets can be obtained by going to www.dycfoundation.com/events.

“The gala begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 4, and our theme will be ‘DYC in the D,’” said Robin Heller, a Detroit Yacht Club Foundation trustee and event organizer. “There will be both live and silent auctions, food, live entertainment, and we’ll even be serving a signature cocktail for the evening, which is the Motown Mule, which is a Moscow Mule with ingredients made in Detroit. The ballroom will also be decorated with some Detroit artwork, and we’ll have a lot of Detroit-based or oriented food like whitefish encrusted in Better Made potato chips, for instance, or using Vernors in a glaze for tenderloin, etc.”

A cash bar also will be offered as part of the festivities. Auction items will include Detroit-based experiences such as sports tickets or passes to cultural centers and other attractions throughout the city.

Heller hopes people will take the opportunity to not only enjoy a fun evening out, but also to help preserve part of the city’s history.

“Besides being a fun time, the proceeds go to a very worthy cause supporting historic preservation of a Detroit institution, which is the clubhouse on Belle Isle,” Heller said. “The building is on the national historic register, which can be achieved in different ways. One is the status of the architect, and another is the effect on the community over the years. (The clubhouse) qualifies by any count. A lot of notables in the city’s history have kept boats there or used the clubhouse.”

Lifter said the clubhouse is now being used as a place where more people are welcome and can take part in different programs. People don’t need to own a boat, or even enjoy going out on the water, to enjoy the Detroit Yacht Club’s home.

“It’s such a fantastic location overlooking the Detroit side of the river,” remarked Lifter. “You don’t have to be a boat owner or boat user to be a part of the yacht club. It’s a social club, and there’s a huge number of activities and clubs within the club to take part in, like a dance club or speaker series discussing history or art.”

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