The Standard Club was a prominent Jewish organization for nearly 50 years, from 1934 until 1981.
Recently, I have written about several historic Jewish clubs in Metro Detroit. There is the Franklin Hills Country Club, which boasts an outstanding golf course and club house. It is also a prime meeting place for local Jews. The Great Lakes Yacht Club is another largely Jewish club based upon a sport that also provides financial support for Jewish organizations. Both clubs are still thriving today.
In addition, there have been many historic Jewish social clubs. The first, and perhaps the most significant in early Jewish Detroit, was the legendary Phoenix Club (1872-1942).
While researching the above-mentioned clubs in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, I found references to many similar organizations. One name, however, stood out from the rest: The Standard Club.
The Standard Club was a prominent Jewish organization for nearly 50 years, from 1934 until 1981. A group of Jewish businessmen developed the idea of the Standard Club. Many of these founders of the Standard Club were also members of the historic Phoenix Club. Harry Grant was the Standard Club’s first president and Louis C. Blumberg served as its first secretary.
More than a luncheon club, invitation to membership in the Standard Club was based upon contributions to charity. The club motto was short and sweet: “Less Talk, More Action.” From the evidence I found on various pages of the JN and Detroit Jewish Chronicle, the club lived up to its motto. The club’s first project was the rebuilding of the Jewish Old Folk’s home. During World War II, it held weekly USO shows and programs for members of the military. The club also sponsored Israel Bond fundraisers and hosted prestigious speakers such as Chaim Weizmann.
The Standard Club held its first meeting at the Leland Hotel in Detroit. It moved to the Book Cadillac in 1940 and met at the Renaissance Center several years before disbanding. Over the decades, the club roster included such Detroit Jewish leaders as Max Fisher, Avern Cohn and Alfred Taubman, to name just a few of the more prominent members. The club, while always remaining predominately Jewish, did eventually open its membership to women and gentiles.
Like many organizations in Downtown Detroit, the Standard Club felt the pressures of economic decline and demographic change in the 1960s and 1970s. It closed in 1981. The Feb. 27, 1981, issue of the JN features an editorial by Philip Slomovitz that notes the closing of the club and what the Standard Club had meant to Jewish Detroiters.
It should also be noted that, among the 546 pages in the Archive that mention the Standard Club, a number of them relate to the Standard Club of Chicago, founded in 1869. This was the granddaddy of Standard Clubs in America, and there are many references to Detroiters, especially prior to 1934, holding weddings and receptions there. In the midst of declining membership and revenue in recent years, it closed in May 2020.
The heyday of Jewish and non-Jewish social clubs and fraternal organizations has passed. Nevertheless, the Standard Club, the Phoenix Club and other clubs played important, historic and, I might add, very interesting, roles in the growth of Jewish Detroit and America.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.