2015 – 2016 Executive Board
Stephen Barber … President
Doug O’Brien … Vice President
Joann Vergote … Hall Manager / Ticket Chair (acting)
Steven Hanbury … Public Relations Chair
Phil Connor … Treasurer
Carolyn Connor … Newsletter Editor
Tracy Olinger … Recording Secretary
Frank Clark … Membership Secretary
(Vacant) … Building Manager
(Vacant) … Entertainment Chair
In the 1950’s an influx of British people into the Detroit area led to the gathering of groups, in order to socialize on common ground, and to be able to share in their common interests. One such group of people working at the GM Tech Center started meeting at night to finish off a coworker’s basement. Upon completion of the project it seemed quite natural to continue meeting, and the idea of creating a British Club was formulated at one of these regular basement parties. So, on December 17th, 1962 “The Commonwealth Club” became a reality and incorporated for the purpose of organizing social functions, dances and charter flights to Britain.
It wasn’t long before the average basement was too small to accommodate these new-found friendships. The next step was to rent a hall and promote regular dances and larger parties.
The “Mound Road Dance” (as it was known) quickly became the place to be on a monthly basis for a growing number of ex-patriates; finances soon grew, and buying our own premises was the next step. An old machine shop was purchased in 1969; the inside was gutted, a bar was installed, dart boards were hung – and after many hours of hard work, a few dedicated members transformed it into a clubhouse that they were justifiably very proud of.
It was very sparse in those days, with crates and orange boxes as part of the decor. The club has come a long way since then, and can truly boast as being one of the finest non-profit British clubs in the country.
What started out as a predominately British club may have changed complexion with the times, but our goal, the preservation and demonstration of our centuries-old traditions, has not deviated. Over the years, members have introduced friends, neighbors, workmates, etc. to our ranks — we have enjoyed the support of not only a large number of American members, but also many other ethnicities, creating a unique blend of people with a common goal. We are indeed a United Nations organization with most of our members recognizing the need to preserve British traditions, heritage, art, and social preferences.
In 2012, The Commonwealth Club celebrated its 50th year anniversary – making us one of the oldest (if not the oldest) British Ex-Pat social club in the United States. Our family-like atmosphere and close friendships between members has allowed our club to endure the tests of time. And although our focus is gradually shifting towards becoming a hub of British culture in the United States, we take solace in the fact that we owe our existence and allegiance to each and every one of our members.
From the austere beginnings of basement parties amongst a few friends, has developed an organization we can admire and be proud of. We give our thanks to those who fostered the idea all those years ago, and to all the members old and new who have been instrumental in building and maintaining what we enjoy now; and we look forward to what the future may bring!