History of the building and its significance
The Players’ Playhouse was constructed in 1925. We refer to our building as ‘our beautiful lady’, as it was coined many years ago.
The architectural firm was Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls (now known as The Smith Group). One of SH&G’s founding partners was Maxwell Grylls, who was also one of the founding fathers of The Players. In his spare time, he also was the president of the Arts & Crafts Society of Detroit for over 3 decades. The Arts & Crafts Society has evolved into what is now the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit’s Cultural Center. Mr. Grylls offered his firm and services gratis to The Players for the construction of this building. A recently hired architect to the SH&G firm was a fellow by the man of William (Bill) Kapp.
Mr. Kapp’s ingenuity and foresight allowed for some groundbreaking engineering feats, such as: an entire edifice constructed from cinder block construction (groundbreaking for 1925); a fire and smoke ventilation system; bar handled push doors for easier operation; and many other niceties that we take for granted today, all built into our cutting edge 1925 building.
While Bill Kapp was thinking outside the box, Max Grylls called on his bevy of artisans that the SH&G firm employed to enhance and beautify other buildings in Detroit. The Players was being constructed in an Italian Renaissance style and quality needed to be on display. The first, and one of our proudest claims, is that Corrado Parducci was our architectural design artist. The corbels, the column capitols, the logo, the gargoyles, and so much more detail, are all Parducci.
Another amazing artist that frequented the Detroit building craze in the 1920’s, was Thomas DiLorenzo. His work as a stencil and fresco artist can be seen in many of Detroit’s finest buildings. All The Player’s ceilings and rafters are adorned with his work. And as a gift to The Players, DiLorenzo painted the Shakespeare’s Seven Stages of Man over the stage’s proscenium.
In the second floor Founders Room, the lights are from an artisan named Oscar Bach. His New York studio was commissioned by SH&G to outfit the room with bronze pieces. Mr. Bach came to install the fixtures himself (something they did in the 1920s) and fell in love with the theater. He then gifted the club with bronze door handles that can be seen throughout the building.
Lastly, and the most prominent, at least when you are in the Great Hall, are the tapestries on the walls of the Great Hall. They are scenes of a troupe of wandering actors and performers. Painted by Paul Honoré over several years. They were commissioned by prominent Players. There are six paintings, but there were supposed to be eight. Mr. Honoré died before he could finish the last two. Paul Honoré was a block print artist, and a mural artist. But the tapestries at The Players are the only free hanging paintings Honoré ever made.
Not only is 3321 East Jefferson a Michigan Historic Landmark, but it has that distinction twice. Once for the building itself. And again, for the land.
The Players sit on the bed of Parents Creek which lies underneath one corner of the building. Near this site on July 31, 1763, the Battle of Bloody Run (so called because the creek ran red with blood) took place between Chief Pontiac and British forces. When the Playhouse was being built in 1924-1925, construction workers uncovered arrow heads, and brass buttons, as you would find on military uniforms.
We have a long list of wants to improve and enhance our building. Priorities are set by the needs and the balance of our endowment fund. All the Endowment Funds are used for Preservation.
As recent as the last three years, we have completely replaced the stage rigging, to provide nylon and steel roping as the pulley system for the stage. Replacing the original rope which was quickly deteriorating.
The HVAC systems, including the heating boiler and all the venting and air conditioning to the entire building have been replaced.
The roof has been replaced and repaired to eliminate any leaks. And lastly, which also provides the greatest visual impact to members and guests, the artwork has been clean and restored. Making the playhouse look as fresh as it did in 1925.
We still have plenty to work on, a hundred-year-old building needs infrastructure work. Next is the plumbing, which will be another costly project. Then a building electrical upgrade. As always, your generosity makes a difference.
We appreciate and thank you for any donation made to the preservation of our Beautiful Lady. You may make a One-Time donation (Lump Sum) or pledge any amount over time. Time payments will be reviewed and then suggested on allotted amounts and length of payment. We use an online payment service to assist us in collecting the dollar amounts. Any other means of payment will need to be delivered to The Players for further processing.
Charitable Contribution Agreement Pledge
Download a PDF version of the above form HERE