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Gotham Hotel

The Gotham Hotel was purchased by John White and Irvine Roan in November 1943 for a quarter of a million dollars (equivalent to $4,281,445 today). The nine-story, twin-towered Gotham Hotel, located outside of Paradise Valley at 111 Orchestra Place, was previously owned by businessman Albert Hartz. At the time of its purchase, the hotel did not allow or welcome black guests.

The elegant 200-room hotel saw white guests voluntarily vacating soon after the sale, making way for black occupancy.

Local gossip suggested that Hartz sold the hotel to John White without knowing that White was a black man. White, fair-skinned and able to "pass," purportedly served as a front man for the purchase, with Roane providing the financial backing.

Roane and White had intended to transform the hotel into a social and business center for blacks who were barred from white establishments. Many saw the purchase of the Gotham Hotel as a significant milestone and an example of breaking the color barrier. The hotel was advertised as "A Monument to Our Race."

Strategically located approximately one mile outside Paradise Valley in what was considered a refined neighborhood, the Gotham Hotel offered amenities that surpassed those of most black-owned hotels at the time. Each suite boasted private bathrooms, telephones, televisions, radios, and air conditioning. Additional services included laundry facilities, a barbershop, valet shop, flower shop, drugstore, haberdashery, and women’s gift shop.

The hotel's centerpiece was the Ebony Room, a restaurant adorned with African woodcarvings—a source of pride for the black community—and renowned for its culinary offerings. Music played through the hotel's auditory system, and the lobby featured fresh flowers and hand-painted oil portraits of prominent black Detroiters such as Congressman Charles Diggs Jr., Judge Wade McCree, middleweight boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, and drugstore owner Sidney Barthwell.

Langston Hughes highlighted the Gotham Hotel in an article for Ebony magazine in 1945, describing it as 'a kind of minor miracle' in Detroit, where an elegant and well-run establishment was owned, managed, and staffed by blacks.

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