About the Whitney
A Detroit Landmark

The Whitney mansion is world famous for upscale dining in Detroit.  Completed in 1894, the Motor City landmark retains the exquisite charm of Detroit’s early upper echelon as a venue for all to enjoy.  

The Whitney now provides several unique features within the historical property: the fine dining restaurant, The Katherine McGregor Dessert Parlor, The Ghostbar and Gardens.  Each has it’s own unique appeal that guests come specifically to enjoy and sometimes find themselves wandering, spending hours frolicking in the enchantments of the estate.

After the Whitneys
An "American Palace"

Following David Whitney’s death in 1900 - having lived in the mansion for only six years – his widow, Sara, continued to live there until her death, in 1917. From then until 1932, when the Whitney family allowed the Wayne County Medical Society to move in, only a caretaker lived in the home. The Medical Society moved in without a down payment on the residence, and the Whitney estate even paid the $15,000 a year property taxes. The Whitney family has always been an advocate of the medical profession, as the original tenants of the David Whitney Building on Grand Circus Park were mostly medical professionals, as well. As the Great Depression ended, the doctors at the Medical Society were able to take over the maintenance bills and taxes.

In 1941, the Whitney family gave the house to the Wayne County Medical Society. “It means much to us that this house filled with sacred memories is now given to such a glorious organization as the Wayne County Medical Society,” Grace Whitney said. According to Dr. A.F. Jennings, the chairman of the medical society, the “million-dollar gift was one of the most notable ever made in the country to any medical society.” The society remained in the home until 1956, when it built a more modern facility near the Wayne State University Medical Science Building. When the doctors moved out, they took with them the life-size marble statue of Psyche that sat in the music room, a bust of Venus de Milo and a bronze bust of Shakespeare.

The Visiting Nurse Association had moved its offices to the carriage house in 1929. The horse stalls were remodeled into offices for training with funds provided by Mrs. F.M. Alger. The VNA purchased the Whitney property for $150,000 with a grant from the Metropolitan Detroit Building Fund in 1957. Another $75,000 from the McGregor Fund, the private foundation started by Katherine Whitney and her husband, Tracy McGregor, in 1925. The nurses, with offices throughout the home, continued to maintain the mansion until 1979, when it was sold to entrepreneur Richard Kughn. Kughn learned that the mansion would likely be torn down after the Visiting Nurse Association left. “It should be preserved, not for personal use but so that the public can see and enjoy it,” he said.

In 1986, after a lengthy and costly restoration (about $3 million in 1986), Kughn opened The Whitney restaurant, “an American restaurant in an American palace.” He enlisted the help of John McCarthy and Ron Fox, who ran Van Dyke Place, a French restaurant in the West Village of Detroit. Fox and McCarthy enlisted crews of students from the Center for Creative Studies to help bring the painted murals back to life. A state-of-the-art kitchen was installed in the former servant’s quarters at the rear of the mansion. The dining rooms on the first and second floors were named after their original purpose and each is uniquely furnished. The third floor became a cocktail lounge named the Winter Garden. The Whitney restaurant went on to become a culinary leader in the Detroit area for many years. 

The Whitney mansion changed hands again in 2007, when Kughn sold the mansion to Bud Liebler, a former Chrysler executive, for more than $2 million. He originally wanted to buy only the carriage house, but Kughn would sell it only as a package deal. Liebler shut the restaurant down for a few weeks to do some renovations, including toning down some of the 1980s paint choices, restore the wood finishes and update the menu. About $300,000 was spent outside in the garden area, where some of the overgrown landscaping was thinned out or removed. They renamed the third floor bar the Ghost Bar after tales of Whitney’s ghost haunting the building. Liebler and his son, Patrick, run their public relations firm, the Liebler Group, from the third floor of the mansion.
A prophetic statement by the Free Press in 1894 seems to summarize her best: “The Whitney place will last as long as is given to houses made by man to endure.”

Year opened 1894

Architect Gordon W. Lloyd

Style Romanesque Revival

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