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The Community House

In 1923, a small committee of people in the Birmingham area founded The Community House (TCH) in a small frame structure on the corner of Bates and Maple. They planned it to be a nonpartisan, nonsectarian, nonexclusive community center where all would be welcome. Ruth Shain was one of seven women who made up the first administrative board. Ruth was very instrumental in putting together a constitution, bylaws and house rules. In the beginning she served as vice chairman, but soon became president leading The House beyond its early stages. Later her husband, Charles Shain, Mayor of Birmingham, followed in her footsteps to be a TCH president.

It is no coincidence that TCH’s front doors face Shain Park, which it overlooks as the Shain legacy lives on within its walls. In 1925, TCH was voted “the official center of charitable endeavors … to promulgate the social, civic and philanthropic life of the village” – a sign of how important this small nonprofit had become as the “heart” of this community. And TCH still is today.

A tone was set that TCH would be a meeting place for all people and their needs, hoping every citizen would take a part to help serve others. The Shains and local business notables were set on making TCH a sustainable success believing “We should cherish … and do anything in our power to make this Community House a great success.”

TCH became a nonprofit that gave all people access to things they couldn’t get elsewhere: a gathering place for people to bond, get food, education and help. TCH was the first venue for Rotary and Lions Club meetings (still meeting here today), and for The Village Players and The Village Women’s Club – legitimizing TCH’s outreach focus, because these organizations would have found it difficult to exist without the free space from TCH. Today TCH provides free space and support for 14 other nonprofit or supported groups.

This small building became a hub of community activity, and by 1928 it was evident that a much larger facility would be required. A capital campaign raised $125,000 from area individuals, civic and social groups and businesses. In April 1930, the new building on Bates Street opened with a celebration attended by more than 5,000 people, including Clara and Henry Ford.

Today, TCH offers over 800 yearly class options including everything from cooking and art history classes to yoga and fencing. TCH is home to the region’s Great Start to Quality Five-Star Early Childhood Center (child care and preschool), TCH Dance Academy, Sara Smith Youth Theatre, 21st Century Leaders Entrepreneurship Program and the Race Relations & Diversity Task Force. The public is welcome to join various TCH Clubs, including Friends of the Gardens, Rotary, Optimists, Storytellers Guild, the International Culture and Cuisine Club and the Newcomers Club, as well as the Senior Men’s Club and TCH Women’s Club.

In addition to TCH classes, events and programs, The Community House provides an exceptional facility for business meetings, banquets, weddings and other celebrations. Offering over 10,000 square feet of versatile function space, The House features multiple rooms that comfortably accommodate 10 to 500 guests. Outdoor events are hosted on the elegantly tented Van Dusen Terrace, which is the largest outdoor patio in Birmingham. An in-house audio visual team is prepared to provide all communication services to enhance clients’ events. Wireless internet is accessible in all rooms, as well as new 70-inch flat screen TVs and drop-down screens. Guests choose from delicious menus prepared by the superb banquet staff at TCH.

While TCH is partially funded by fees for some of the service it provides to the community, the organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and relies largely upon individual, corporate and foundation support to provide its community outreach services. Ongoing community support is required to meet the changing needs of our community and to allow us to bring vital classes, seminars, lectures, camps and outreach activities to the community of southeast Michigan and other worthy charitable organizations while continually seeking support to maintain and preserve its 93-year-old facility.

For more information, contact The Community House, 380 South Bates St., Birmingham, (248) 644-5832 or visit

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