The hotel has been owned and operated by the Doherty family since 1924 when Senator Alfred J. Doherty officially opened this grand lodging. It was passed on to his son and then his grandson, Alfred J. Doherty III who took over the reins in 1969. Today Dean and Jim Doherty, manage the hotel started by their great grandfather.
During prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, Clare was home to the Purple Gang. Even the Mafia could be seen making backroom deals in many of the shops. In fact, Al Capone frequented some of these buildings; yet, the Purple Gang really owned the city. The Purples were one of Michigan’s most notorious and dangerous criminal elements. They made their money in a variety of ways, but most notable was stealing illegal liquor shipments from other gangs.
The Purples, Russian Jewish immigrants, started in Detroit’s Eastern Market region. How did they get their name? Well, legend has it that two vandalized shopkeepers were talking one day. One man said to the other, ” These boys are not like other children. they’re tainted, off color.” “Yes”, replied the other man, “They are rotten, purple, like the color of bad meat. They are a purple gang.” From there the name just stuck.
With Clare being so rich from oil, it attracted the underworld. The Purple Gang moved into the area and spent much of their time at the Doherty Hotel. That leads us to the hotel’s most noted death, a murder.
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