A.C. Varney and the Varney Room

AC-VarneyI must say they have done quite well with the old girl. Quite well indeed. And I must also say that I am not one who tends to be easily impressed. I did not make my name by being accommodating to mediocrity, and I simply will not tolerate its presence. There is no excuse for it.

When I designed the El Moore over a century ago (for the sake of time we will skip the admittedly remarkable details of how I came to be a guest in my cherished building so long after my death, but believe me, this is a story you will want to hear at a later date), my desire was to create a luxury accommodation for only the finest of Detroit’s residents in one of the city’s most fashionable areas. I recall the neighborhood surrounding the El Moore as a wonderfully busy thoroughfare, a perfect residential location for those such as myself who prefer the many amenities of the city, and Detroit at that time was a city quite unlike any other. I have seen New York, and have heard the overflow of praises, but for me Detroit is certainly the preferred choice for those with enough wisdom to know how to choose.

At that time, I made sure that the building would be attractive in each and every way, on the outside as well as inside where each sizable room had its own fireplace, and the furnishings were intricately and intimately designed to make the residents feel welcome and comfortable. The colors, the wallpaper, toiletries, each and every detail was selected with care and precision because it had to be. The El Moore was never to be left a victim to chance or random negligence. It was to be perfect.

Varney-Bed-Upon my return only several months ago (after the initial shock which, as I have stated, will be discussed at a later date), I was pleased, of course, for the invitation from the building’s new owners to visit the El Moore in its current, refurbished state. I was even more pleased that there is a room named after me! It was a joy to see that my El Moore still stands, but to see that my contribution is remembered is a pleasant experience indeed. Furthermore I had the opportunity to spend several evenings in the A.C. Varney room, and my experience was as entertaining as it was comfortable, but also a bit strange.

Electricity, for example. When the El Moore was completed, Thomas Edison had only recently figured out how to use electricity to power the light bulb. Now electricity is seemingly everywhere and in everything. Indeed there is so much of it that the El Moore is now working to conserve the very same energy that we had only barely discovered. There are elevators, computers, electric cars. And the bathroom shower was a marvel all by itself.

If there would be one complaint, I would only say that the look of the room – and of the building – is a bit more spare than I intended. Although I came to understand the concept of repurposed materials, at least in  theory, I nevertheless have always been one who believed in a bit of extravagance when it comes to decoration. These days it appears extravagance is practically a bad word, at least when it comes to residential decoration.

But then, I am practically 150 years old and back from the dead, so one might expect my tastes to be somewhat to the left of mainstream.

About Keith Owens

Keith Owens is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger and musician whose most recent work has been featured in Model D Detroit, BLAC Detroit, and the national political affairs blog PoliticusUSA. He has also published three novels through Detroit Ink Publishing (www.detroitinkpublishing.com), the eBook publishing company he co-founded with his wife, Pamela Hilliard Owens. Keith and Pam live in a 100-year-old home in the Historic Boston-Edison District a few miles north of the El Moore.

El Moore