Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pinkies Up at The Whitney

Sometimes  a girl just needs to put on a dress and drink tea. 

So last Friday, I did just that, visiting The Whitney in Detroit for High Tea*. It was a dignified affair with ladies in hats, scones, and tiny ramekins of chantilly creme (I would kill for some chantilly creme right now). Everyone was putting their best lady act forward. 

The tea was delicious and smooth — perfect for the rainy day it was. In fact, it was the tea that had brought us there in the first place. A local tea master, Mary (working as Intutea), provides the house teas for The Whitney. We had met Mary and discovered Intutea on our recent trip to Eastern Market. Fascinated by the robust aroma and rich flavor, we followed the tea to the Whitney. 
The presentation, the meal and the service were spot on during tea, but we were in for the real treat following tea (which is really more like a 3-course lunch) when we were able to actually tour the mansion. And the home was definitely the star of the day. 
The Whitney home was built from 1890 to 1894 by Detroit lumber baron David Whitney, Jr. On the corner of Woodward and Canfield, the 21,000 square home is made of solid pink jasper** and cost $400,000 dollars to construct ($10 million today). To build this home from scratch today, with the same materials and detailing, would cost $83 million. An additional $250,000 ($6.2 million today) was spent on decorating/furnishings and $300,000 ($7.5 million) on artwork from around the world. 

The home is a showman of craftsmanship with Tiffany glass***, extensive hand laid tile, acres of intricate woodwork and, of course, embossed leather wallpaper. Built to last and meticulous restored, it stands as a beacon of what Detroit used to be. I'm glad the Whitney has endured and hope it continue to be a reminder of the dignity the city once honored. 

David Whitney Jr. only lived in the home for 6 years, before passing in 1900. His family stayed in the home until 1917 when his second wife died. Their estate tried to gift the home to Wayne State University. The University declined****, so the building was used by the Wayne County Medical Society, and eventually the Visiting Nurses Association (even keeping patients on site) until 1979.  

After an extensive restoration in 1986, the Whitney became a restaurant, and it has been run as such since. 

If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, The Whitney is doing a haunted high tea***** on October 16th and 30th, as well as a special parade watching brunch on Thanksgiving Day. The Ghost Bar has a Witching Hour every night,

*Actually a special event called City Cider where the tea was brewed in hot apple cider. 
**Pink Jasper is found exclusively in North Dakota. Whitney bought a mine in ND and built a railway to transport the stone to Michigan.
***Which may be worth more than the house itself. 
****There is something like 2600 lightbulbs in the house, operating costs are INSANE.
*****The Whitney is famous for being haunted, hence the name of their Ghost Bar on the third floor. 

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