The Carfax Arms is a former hotel currently owned and operated as a private home and entertainment venue. Legally, the property is owned by Carfax Crypt LLC, a privately owned web enterprise run by William Jacoby, “Count” Leland Jones, and Carla “Mina” Murray. The Carfax Arms was purchased from the city assayer’s office in 2008, and officially opened its doors as a venue for private parties in may of 2009. Despite the building’s former function as a hotel, the Carfax Arms is not in fact a hotel, nor does it currently mantain a fully functioning club. Legally, the building is zoned as a private residence, with some sections sub-let to rental clients. Public areas of the building can be sub-let by a temporary lease to third party establishments, providing a venue for parties and club activities. Count Leland frequently hosts parties at the Carfax, running a small private club through Carfax Crypt LLC, as a means of advertising the Crypt of Carfax website.
p. The Century Arms hotel was built in 1895 in an area known as Poletown, outside of what was then the current limits of the Detroit metro area, along a branch of the north-bound railway system. Originally, there has been a railway stop next door, on the premises of what is now a chinese restaraunt. The architect, Johann Mayers-Stern, hoped the building to be a symbol of the “New Century of Progress”. While the Century Arms is a shining example of the architectural style of Mayers-Stern, his work is best categorized as mediocre, and the building never became a major landmark. As far as is known, the Century Arms is the last remaining building to have been designed by Johann Mayers-Stern, all others having subsequently been demolished.
During Prohibition, Anton Charles Polk, grandson of the original owner of the Century Arms, became involved in bootleg smuggling and organized crime. There had been a speakeasy hidden under the kitchens of the main building, with access tunnels running beneath the road to the nearby railway station. Polk’s association with organized crime ended in tragedy when his daughter, Cecillia, died after being shot by a stray bullet fired by police, which passed through a wall and killed the girl as she was playing with her toys in a room on the fifth floor. Since that time, visitors and staff have occasionally reported seeing the ghost of a young girl wandering the hotel, seemingly lost and looking for her parents.
After the tragic death of Cecillia, the building was purchased by A C Varney and partially renovated, with the intention of making the building an annex to the nearby Varney Apartments. During the Great Depression, the Century Arms became a flophouse, offering low-income housing on a daily or weekly basis for itinerant workers who had to be layed off from local neighborhood plants.
After World War II, the eastside neighborhood of Poletown came on hard times, and businesses in the region began to fail. The majority of the region would eventually be taken by General Motors as emminent domain, and in 1981 the majority of the region was torn down to make room for the GM Detroit/Hamtramck Assemply Plant. The Century Arms is own of the few buildings in the region to have survived this diaspora, but was little more than a shell. The building became a haven for gangs and drug dealers, and from 1983 to 1992 was notorious as the neighborhood crackhouse. Pressure from police and rival gangs forced out the drug dealers, and eventually the Century Arms once again lay silent and empty.
In 2006, ground was broken on nearby Selkirk Street for a new construction project known as the “Castle Mall”, sparking a wave of gentrification in the region. The Century Arms was purchased and renamed the Carfax Arms, and its current life as a private residence began. Other projects in the region have come to a halt after the Devil’s Night riots of 2010, but renovation of the new Carfax is nearly completed. Full restoration of the building is slated for spring 2011, in time for a much-anticipated Walpurgisnacht anniversary.