Historic Detroit

Griswold Hotel

The Griswold Hotel was one of Detroit’s storied old hotels and the birthplace of two longtime institutions.

The building was opened in 1868 by Alfred Goodman as the Goodman House, and in 1895, two more stories were added and the building was renamed the Griswold Hotel. A rear addition replaced the building’s stable.

The hotel had 160 rooms, and rates were $1 per day and up. It was run by the Postal Hotel Co., which also ran the Oriental Hotel on what is now Library Street.

Among the Griswold’s patrons were Baseball Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack and his teams.

On Jan. 21, 1915, the Kiwanis Club was founded here. The first Kiwanis Club was formed by Detroit tailor Joseph Prance. The name was taken from a Chippewa Indian phrase, “Nun Kee-wan-is,” which is loosely translated to, “We gather together, we make big noise.” The Detroit Rotary Club was founded here in 1910, when its first five members first met in its cafe.

“For better than 30 years starting before the turn of the century, the Griswold House … was a thriving and friendly hostelry,” John Manning wrote in the Detroit Free Press upon its pending demolition. “Its check-in guests came largely from up state rather than from all across the nation, but that didn’t make it by any means parochial.”

He added: “Its food was first rate and its beverages first-rate plus.”

The hotel was a popular lunch and cocktail spot for businessmen, especially those situated in the areas around Grand Circus and Capitol parks. The dining room sported a Victorian motif and was in red and gold. Large crystal chandeliers dangled from the ceiling, and each table was draped in white damask and had ornate lamps with pink and gold shades.

The Griswold’s proprietor, Fred Postal, was known as both a sportsman and an innovator. He is credited with opening one of the first nightclubs in the city. When the clock struck 8 p.m., the Griswold’s dining room was turned into a cabaret. At the turn of the century, Detroit’s finer cabarets and taverns were all known for specializing in their own drinks, and the Griswold was known across Michigan for specializing in gin fizzes.

The Griswold was also home to the beloved Seafood Grotto restaurant, until the eatery relocated to West Seven Mile and Telegraph Road in 1940. That’s the same year that the hotel building underwent an extensive remodeling and repair.

But the Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression, and the hotel took a beating. Though it managed to hold on, it was dealt another another blow by the changing and modernizing tastes. Owner Fred Simonsen sold the hotel on July 28, 1960, to Sam Stolorow, owner and president of the Pontiac Parking Co. and the Samary Parking Co. Stolorow, who forked over a reportedly “substantial six-figure price,” soon announced that he planned to tear the old hotel down to build a parking garage.

“It is not surprising that plans are under way to raze the old hotel,” Manning wrote. “The big depression wounded it badly. It has been going down steadily since then. It had its place, however, in the recreational life of our city and it performed lustily and well.”

It was torn down in early 1961 and replaced with Stolorow’s parking garage, which still stands on the site today.

This Griswold House is not to be confused with an earlier hotel by the same name that stood at Congress and Griswold. That one was torn down in 1895.

More on this lost landmark coming soon.