The Douglas Club was located at 7917 Cedar Avenue in Cleveland. Its name, sometimes spelled Douglass, suggests that it may have derived from the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The club opened at an unspecified date in the early 1930s and reportedly started on East 40th Street before moving in 1935 to the Cedar Avenue location that would later appear in the Green Book. The club, according to one ad, operated for “members and guests,” so its inclusion in the Green Book, so it is unclear how visitors using the guidebook might gain entry to the club. It seems possible that simply mentioning the Green Book may have been sufficient. After the Douglas Club moved to Cedar Avenue, it was headed by Walter Ellis. A native of Muncie, Indiana, Ellis came to Cleveland in 1922 and worked as a waiter before opening a barber shop and later becoming a jukebox distributor.
In the 1930s-40s, the club featured jazz and cabaret floor shows, as well as meetings of political and fraternal organizations. The club also became noted for its dinners. In the late 1930s, Margaret Ray prepared foods that included breaded pork chops, shack fried chicken, ham and mustard greens, and “the famous Douglas Club Hamburger.” By the late 1940s, Dorothy Gritney cooked for the club, still offered “country style food” and “positively the largest hamburger you’ll ever eat—for only 30 cents.” The 1950 census listed Gritney, whose husband was a postal carrier, as a restaurant proprietor. The Douglas Club, like other popular Cleveland clubs, also had its own sports teams, specifically bowling and baseball. The club’s baseball team had the name “The Drunkards” and played some of its games in the Brecksville Metropolitan Park (now Brecksville Reservation).
After Walter Ellis died in 1947, his younger brother James A. “Jimmy” Ellis served as president and manager of the Douglas Club until his death in 1971, at which time his wife Elizabeth Ellis took the helm. The club was still open at this location at least through 1983, and although it is unknown when the Douglas Club closed, it clearly left a mark on Cleveland.
Green Book Details
Douglass Club appears in the Green Book under the name “Douglass” from 1946 to 1955 under the category Night Clubs.
- “Arthur Williamson New Manager of the Douglass Club.” Call & Post. January 30, 1936.
- “Bobbing Along with Bob Williams.” Call & Post. September 17, 1949.
- “Boydston Post’s Cabaret Party at Douglas Club.” Call & Post. March 5, 1936.
- Dorthy I. Gritney, 1950 U.S. Census, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, E.D. 92-921. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Douglass, Bud. “Douglas Club ‘Drunkards’ Bow to 12 Counts 10-4 in Brecksville Slugfest.” Call & Post. August 8, 1942.
- “Douglass Club Holds One Game Lead In ‘A’.” Call & Post. March 20, 1943.
- “Douglas Club Offers Regular Dinner Menu.” Call & Post. September 28, 1939.
- “Jimmy Ellis Dead at 57.” Call & Post. January 23, 1971.
- Lee, C. E. “Gadding About with the Night Hawks: The Swanky Douglass Club.” Call & Post. September 1, 1934.
- “Music For Members At Remodeled Douglas Club.” Call & Post. April 17, 1971.
- “Walter Ellis Buried In Indiana After Monday Night Service Here.” Call & Post. August 30, 1947.