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The Schvitz to undertake major restoration of upstairs ballroom

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The historic bath house in the North End got a Motor City Match grant for the work

Exterior of a two-story, rectangular, gray-brick building. The second-story windows have all been covered. A red van and white van are parked outside the entrance. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Under new ownership, much has changed at the Schvitz.

For decades, the historic bath house in Detroit’s North End served as a place where men could sweat in the steam room and get scrubbed with an oak-leaf platza. But it was also host to some of the city’s seedier elements, like Purple Gang mobsters in the 1920s or swingers in more recent times.

But since Patrick “Paddy” Lynch bought the Schvitz in 2017, both the rules and decor have gotten modern updates. It’s now open to everyone: Swingers Night is gone and there are women-only and coed time slots.

And now, the 4,000-square-foot upstairs ballroom, which has its own entrance, is set to be renovated. The Schvitz was recently awarded a $40,000 Motor City Match grant for the work. Lynch expects the initial phase will cost around $400,000.

Updates to the space will include adding skylights to the 20-foot vaulted ceiling; daylighting many of the 16 large windows; and adding a mezzanine, portable bar, stage, and rooftop access with a deck. The building will also need a new roof and HVAC.

This first phase is largely about making the space functional again, though Lynch says he ultimately wants to restore the ballroom to its “original grandeur.” Principal design is being done by Anthony Morin of Omilian and Morin Architecture and Design.

“The first two years have been labor of love, about bringing an old place back. This is a much bigger project,” Lynch says. “The downstairs operates like a community rec center or nonprofit—there’s just not enough income to fully restore the building. The only way it can brought back to life fully is if we can activate the ballroom.”

The Schvitz has hosted a number of events over the last two years—it’s available for rent Fridays and Saturdays—and the ballroom will allow it to increase its capacity and offerings.

In a Facebook post announcing the news, the Schvitz wrote that, the ballroom’s “wild and colorful history is truly unparalleled.”

The ballroom was originally home to large religious and cultural events during the 1920s before going on to host everything from notorious bootleggers to high-stakes gambling and racketeering to swinger parties and all kinds of provocative subculture.

It’s expected to open sometime in 2020.