in partnership
For more than two decades, Virginia Wyman ran this private 11,000 square foot dinner club with partner Joe McDonnal. Just a couple months ago, businessman Dhruv Agarwal, owner of the Fremont Foundry, bought it. The Ruins was going to be demolished, but when Agarwal saw it, it was love at first sight. The Ruins is located at 570 Roy St. in Seattle. (Image: Sunita Martini / Seattle Refined)

Inside The Ruins: A private Seattle dining club/event space that almost closed

The nondescript brown building doesn't look like anything special. There's not even a sign.

But step inside and you'll discover a building within a building, and a secret world of whimsy and wonder.

It's called The Ruins.

"Each room is it's own theme, it's own graciousness," said Virginia Wyman, former owner/operator. "Each one is wonderful, quirky, attractive, interesting, different and amazing."

For more than two decades, Wyman ran this private 11,000 square foot dinner club with partner Joe McDonnal. They were going to name the restaurant "The Palace", but thought that if they did that - people would expect a lot.

"If I called it 'The Ruins', they'd be happy with whatever I gave them," said Wyman.

We got lucky enough to get the VIP tour from Wyman herself.

The dining room of the event space easily gets the most use. Wooden candle holders and large urns ground the grand space, while a photo of Wyman's mother lovingly looks on. Many of these piece here actually belonged to her.

"She liked to collect antique furniture, and she had really good taste," Wyman said. "This set of three was in the dining room all the time growing up, the chest, the candelabra and the mirror. All together."

Next, a charming room with a fun french name.

"This is the maisonette," she said. "A maisonette is a little house! It's got an entrance, it's got an exit, it's got a bathroom - it's an independent room."

There's a desk built for two, and iron stoneware scattered on the walls.

"That horse my mother used to have flying through her garage, but she has a good home here," said Wyman. "He's decorative and very unexpected."

Then there's the ballroom, featuring dazzling hand-painted murals. Wyman says she actually tries not to study them, so she can still be surprised every time she comes in.

"I could just be in this room and have a new surprise every now and then," she smiles. In fact, when we're there with her she notices a robin in she'd never seen before - after 21 years.

The library is another stunning space, with over 4,000 books and a gorgeous stained glass dome.

Then - you've heard the expression "The elephant in the room"? Well, there's actually an elephant in this room.

"This is the elephant cage," Wyman shows us. "[It's called the cage because] the elephant is in there and he can't get out!"

Wyman's partner McDonnal purchased the impressive beast from a Frederick and Nelson department display years ago.

"He was built in 1931 for the Paris World Exhibition!" she boasts. "He is gorgeous - and, he moves."

Wyman has relished sharing the quirky elegance of The Ruins for 20+ years. But now, we're entering into a new chapter for this special place.

Businessman Dhruv Agarwal, owner of the Fremont Foundry, just bought it. The Ruins was going to be demolished, but when Agarwal saw it, it was love at first sight.

"When you go into spaces or you meet people it just kind of strikes you," he said. "It was the fact that it was such a unique place, [I'd] never been to something like this in Seattle. There was just so much history and heart in what had been done here."

And while the owner may change, the essence of the eclectic club will remain the same.

"I believe in parties, and I believe in hospitality and I believe wonderful things happen when you put people together in a congenial setting," smiled Wyman. "It's magic."