Friday, October 5, 2012

The Caucus Club

All things pass, but some will be fondly remembered. News comes today that The Caucus Club is closing in the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit. The 47-story Penobscot building is one of the tallest and finest in Detroit, and this restaurant (not really a club), tucked into a relatively small space next to the Congress Street entrance, one of its quiet jewels. Many of us occupants came and went by that entrance daily; the parking lots lay in that direction. Most of us, of course, regularly ate our lunch at the Epicurean Café in the basement, another great old venue. It also passed into memory (in June 2006)—but by that time it had been acquired by a new owner who seemingly didn’t have what it takes. The Caucus Club (sixty at its passing) was for special lunches or for drinks after work on celebratory occasions. My memories are of dark spaces but artfully lit; it had privacy, atmosphere, table-cloths for dinner, alcoholic beverages, and a great selection of fine cigars as you came and went.  

Back when we took up our “residence” in the Penobscot—Brigitte leading the way, as Editor of Gale’s most prestigious title, Encyclopedia of Associations—she had her offices on the 13th floor. Of course! A year or so later I followed—and had my first tiny suite on the 13th floor too. Later we (Editorial Code and Data, Inc.) moved up to the 31st, eventually occupying almost the entire floor, before “publishing” departed for the suburbs. In those days the largest single occupant was Gale Research. Many of the other residents were prestigious law firms, associations, corporate headquarters, and such. We’re now talking about the 1980s. When Gale left a decade later, temporary jails had been put in place in the Penobscot’s basement and the building was beginning to serve as an overflow for the city and state governments’ judicial branches.

Strange how memory transforms the tense, gritty day-to-day. Only warm feelings remain for our old Penob today—and especially warm memories of laughing groups, down in the Caucus Club, unwinding after special days, celebrating the publication of tough, hard-fought directories, seasonal episodes, and just meeting friends. The Caucus Club’s interior by night was, even then, lit in sepia tones. With time that color has taken on a deeper hue. The troubles and crises we lived through can, of course, still be recalled, but the overall effect of looking back brings nostalgia for something lost. Farewell, Caucus Club. We thank you for the memories.
Image sources: Penobscot, Wikipedia (link); Caucus Club, Dining in Detroit (link).

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