Dossin Great Lakes Museum's DeRoy Hall

In 2020, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum completed a $2.4 million Outdoor Enhancement Project that included upgrades to the Museum’s exterior spaces, shoreline restoration and a new outdoor patio space. This project was the latest enhancement to the Museum, preceded by several during the Museum’s more than 60-year history!  

 

DeRoy Hall  

DeRoy Hall at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is one of the Museum’s most recognizable spaces, used for lectures, exhibits and even weddings! But, this multi-purpose waterfront space wasn’t always a part of the Museum. The Dossin Great Lakes Museum was constructed after its pre-cursor - the Museum of the Great Lakes aboard the J.T. Wing - was demolished. In 1960, the Dossin opened to the public.

After several years of successful operation, a donation from Helen DeRoy would allow for the auditorium-like space to be constructed. As the story goes, Helen DeRoy’s niece who lived in the nearby Whittier Towers visited the Museum and asked a curator what the Museum needed. The reply? “An auditorium.” 

Helen DeRoy soon visited the Museum and agreed to fund Aaron DeRoy Hall — named in honor of her late husband.  

 

Photo: c. 1968, from the Detroit Historical Society collection.  Black and white photographic print of Mr. James Jones, former Detroit Historical Museum staff member, admiring the plaque at the dedication ceremony for Aaron DeRoy Hall.

The DeRoys 

Aaron DeRoy Hall was dedicated in 1968 and has been an integral part of the Museum and its operations. But, who were the DeRoys?

Originally from Pennsylvania, Aaron became the first Jewish auto dealership owner when he opened the Aaron DeRoy Car Co., which was a Studebaker dealership.

In 1923, the couple moved their business to Detroit where Aaron opened a Hudson-Essex dealership. The Essex car brand was produced by the Essex Motor Company until 1922 and then by the Hudson Motor Car Company until 1933 in Detroit — today, this is recognized as an orphan car brand, a type of car or company that discontinued production and no longer exists.

In Detroit, as prominent business owners, the DeRoys were influential in the city’s Jewish community and were some of the most important philanthropists during the Great Depression. They even purchased the first two giraffes for the Detroit Zoo in 1928.

In 1935, when Aaron DeRoy passed,Helen took over the business and continued the family’s philanthropic outreach. When Helen sadly passed in 1977, the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation was founded. The foundation has carried on the DeRoy’s legacy by providing funding for a variety of projects in the Metro Detroit area. 

In 2020, the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation provided funding for the extension of Aaron Deroy Hall with a new, outdoor patio called the Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy Patio.  

 

Visit the Museum  

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and both Aaron DeRoy Hall and Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy Patio, are open for guests to explore on Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Belle Isle. You can plan your visit at detroithistorical.org. These spaces also make the perfect wedding or event location! You can learn more about booking your next event at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum at detroithistorical.org.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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