CHRIS MORRIS Chris.Morris@newsandtribune.com
NEW ALBANY — The first time Dick Bliss walked upstairs to look at the third floor of the Calumet Club after purchasing the building in 2000, he probably wanted a do-over.
The windows were all boarded up. The leaky roof caused the floor below to rot away. It was a mess.
“It just needed some tender loving care,” he said with a laugh.
And for the past 10 years, that is exactly what Bliss has given it. Now, it’s time to show it off to the rest of the area.
The third floor ballroom has been completely renovated and is ready for weddings, receptions or any kind of gathering. Not only has the interior been restored and remodeled, an elevator has been added to make for easy access.
“I knew we had to have it,” Bliss said of the elevator. “A lot of people can’t handle the stairs.”
The room can seat 330 and compliments the first floor reception room which holds about 200. Wednesday afternoon, workers, along with Bliss, were putting the final touches on the ballroom, getting it ready for an upcoming party.
“We’ve been slowly working on it. We were kind of paying as we go,” he said. “But when we decided to put in the elevator, we decided to get a loan to finish it off.”
The building not only houses the smaller reception hall on the first floor, which has been operational for four years, Bliss Travel has its office on the second floor.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” said Dick’s son, Mark who is manager of the Calumet Club. “We’ve been nibbling away at it. There are just not that many venues around that hold 300 guests. There was a demand for it. We aren’t taking business away from anybody. It was something needed in the community.”
The Calumet Club, located at 1614 E. Spring St. in New Albany, was built in 1919 and opened June 12, 1920. The all-men’s club occupied the building until The Depression brought it to a close in1932.
The Calumet Club fielded several competitive athletic teams early in the 20th century. While a gymnasium was on the third floor, the first floor offered bowling alleys to members.
The National Guard used the building from 1939 until 1957, when it was moved to Grant Line Road and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America used the building as a union hall. But every time Bliss passed the old clubhouse, he kept watching it deteriorate more and more. He said the selling price was right, so he decided to purchase the building in 2000.
“I was working on the house next door in 1997 and saw the building going downhill,” said the elder Bliss. “I said then I wouldn’t mind buying and saving it.”
The third floor, which has been turned into a ballroom, was once one of the few gymnasiums in the city. But bleachers and basketball goals have been replaced by chandeliers and a touch of elegance.
“I’m just tickled to death with it,” Dick Bliss said. “I feel like I’ve put something back [in the city]. I worked 24 years on the city council and I feel like I have left it all right here. When people come in here they just can’t believe it. They are so surprised.”
Once the building is finished in a few days, attention will turn to the outside garden area which sits next to the Calumet Club.
Mark Bliss said the completion of the third floor makes the building a one-stop shop. He said couples can get married, have their reception, and book their honeymoon all under one roof. But more than anything, he said he is proud of his father’s hard work and desire to once again make the Calumet Club a New Albany showcase.
“He’s not doing this for money. It’s his passion,” he said. “He loves old buildings and he loves to get his hands dirty.”
There will be an open house at the building from 5 to 8 p.m. May 25. For more information or to book one of the two reception halls, call 812-949-1611 or go to www.thecalumetclub.com.
SO YOU KNOW
• The cornerstone for the Calumet Club Clubhouse was laid Dec. 7, 1919. The building opened the following year June 12, 1920.
• The first floor originally housed pool tables, showers, lockers and bowling alleys.
• The third floor was once considered one of the best gymnasiums in the area and was also used as a dance hall.
• The Calumet Club members donated $200 to help with the clean-up following the March 23, 1917 tornado that ripped through New Albany.
• Club members participated in a number of sports
• Sherman Minton coached the club’s football team in 1924
• The club disbanded following the Great Depression in 1932
CHECK IT OUT There will be an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. May 25 at the club, located at 1614 E. Spring St. in New Albany