Thursday, December 6, 2012

Iwalked New York City’s University Club

Iwalked New York City’s University Club - The University Club, at 1 West 54th Street, is a private social club that was established in 1865. The club was started by a group of Yale alumni who held their initial meetings at Columbia University Law School. Despite its Yale origins, the club does not have any formal ties to this university or any others for that matter. Formal ties, though, are a must in order to get in the door to this club. Men must wear jackets and ties at all times and women are expected to wear similar formal attire in the form of suits or dresses.

University Club
University Club
One other restriction on which the University Club is adamant about is the non-usage of cell phones throughout the club except in designated spaces. In a well-publicized story in 1997, Hillary Clinton was visiting with New York Post celebrity gossip columnist, Cindy Adams, when Adams received a phone call in one of the “non-approved” spaces. With complete disregard for who they were dealing with, the club escorted the then First Lady and her guest out the doors.

As it is likely that most of us will never see the insides of the University Club let me share what I have been able to learn of its interiors from my research. The highlight of the building is the library on the second floor which you can sometimes get a glimpse into from street level. The library is said to contain vast vault ceilings with murals painted atop its ceiling by Henry Siddons Mowbray that emulate the Vatican Apartments. Also amongst the interior is an extensive art collection, including a series of portraits by Gilbert Stuart, and a series of swimming pools allowable for usage with either swimming or birthday suits (at least in the male-only pool).

Speaking of male-only, the University Club underwent an overhaul of its membership policy in 1997 due to the passage of the New York City Public Law 63. Public Law 63 required all fee-collecting clubs with members greater than 400 (of which the University Club has over 4,000 members) to begin allowing the membership of women, or else the club would be forced to alter its charter.

The University Club has been located within this nine-story Italian High Renaissance Revival building since 1899. The Club which took on a series of temporary homes since its founding acquired a lot that was formerly owned by St. Luke’s Hospital to build on this site. They then hired the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to construct themselves new quarters for the sum of $1 million. McKim, Mead & White’s unique design integrates pink Milford granite on its exterior, along with a series of twenty-five feet columns that grace each side of the front entrance. Also integrated above each of the building’s windows are crests that are representative of various prominent universities. Perhaps the most intriguing element, however, is the deceptive appearance of the building’s exterior. By glancing at the outside of the building it seems apparent that there are no more than three levels, when in actuality the interior maintains nine.

For those curious on membership dues, the current fee structure is not published and has not been in quite some time. The last published fee dates back to 1903 when annual dues were $60 with additional new member fees of approximately $200.