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The California Club
|Location||538 S Flower St, Los Angeles, California|
|Area||Less than 1 acre (0.40 ha)|
|Architect||Robert D. Farquhar|
|Architectural style||Italian Renaissance Revival|
|NRHP reference #||10000425|
|Added to NRHP||July 6, 2010|
|Designated LAHCM||November 2, 1966|
The California Club is a members-only private social club established in 1888 in downtown Los Angeles, and the second-oldest such club in Southern California. Its building was erected in 1930 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
There is an old adage that goes "The people who run Los Angeles belong to The Jonathan Club; the people who own Los Angeles belong to The California Club." The membership is by invitation only. All new members must be invited by at least six existing members of the Club, and pass a series of interviews by the Club's Membership Committee, as well as background and reference checks.
The club has ranked #13 in the "Centrality Rankings" by G. William Domhoff in his book "Social clubs, policy-planning groups, and corporations: A network study of ruling-class cohesiveness" published in 2005, and it is one of the most exclusive private clubs in the U.S.
The California Club was incorporated on December 24, 1888. The first organizational meeting was held September 24, 1887, "in Justice Austin's courtroom", with N. C. Coleman as chairman and H. T. DeWilson as secretary.
The constitution and bylaws of the Union Social Club, of San Francisco, was reported and accepted without any change by the body of gentlemen assembled. There was considerable discussion on the ... name of the club, and ... it was decided to call it the California Club, of Los Angeles. The section in the bylaws granting army and navy officers all the privileges of members upon half-rate caused considerable feeling among the members. Four votes were taken on the question, and at last it was decided to allow the bylaws to read as they have for twenty-five years in the Union Club.
The club's first location was in the second-floor rooms over the Tally-Ho Stables on the northwest corner of First and Fort (Broadway) streets, where the Los Angeles County Law Library now stands. It moved to the Wilcox Building on the southeast corner of Second and Spring streets in 1895, occupying the two top floors, the fourth and fifth. The building was distinguished as the first in Los Angeles to have two elevators—one for the public and the other for members. The men's dining room, reading room, bar and lounge were on the top floor. On the floor below was the ladies' dining room.
The club remained at the Wilcox Building for ten years. Increased membership impelled the club to seek a new location in the southward and westward direction of the expansion of the city. In 1904 the club's headquarters were moved to a new five-story building with a basement and a roof garden on the northwest corner of Fifth and Hill streets.
In a vote taken in June 1987, 90 percent of the voting members favored admitting women. In addition, the Los Angeles City Council in May 1987 voted 12-0 to ban discriminatory practices at institutions in Los Angeles like the California Club. Since that time, the Club has maintained a non-discriminatory policy for admission to membership.
In the late 1920s, purchase of land at 538 South Flower Street was negotiated, and in 1929 the present structure was begun. Construction on the current seven-story clubhouse at 538 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, California, began in late 1928 and was formally completed on August 25, 1930. The building was designed by Robert D. Farquhar, an architect trained at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris. The American Institute of Architects awarded Farquhar its Distinguished Honor Award for the design of the California Club building.
According to the National Park Service:
The structure is considered one of the most important buildings of the architect Robert D. Farquhar. Built in 1930, The Italian Renaissance Revival style building, with its setbacks and tower, was among the largest buildings in the immediate area when the site was chosen. Elements like the private forecourt, which partially shields the front entrance and first floor, provides the club with a sense of privacy and understated design.
In addition to fine antiques and handcrafted furniture, the clubhouse is decorated with a collection of Western-themed, plein air paintings by such American landscape painters as J. Bond Francisco, Elmer Wachtel, Franz A. Bischoff, George Kennedy Brandriff, William Wendt and Paul Lauritz.
- "Announcements and actions on properties for the National Register of Historic Places for July 16, 2010". Weekly Listings. National Park Service. July 16, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- Architectural Resources Group, Jennifer Trotoux (December 28, 2009). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: The California Club" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-08-14. (46 pages, with exterior and interior photos)
- Los Angeles Department of City Planning (2007-09-07). "Historic - Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments" (PDF). City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- "Gentlemen's Club". Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1887. p. 1. (Subscription required (help)).
Library card required.
- Jack Smith (March 2, 1969). "County Aide Calls Club Ethnically Restrictive". Los Angeles Times. p. B2.
- David Johnston (June 5, 1986). "Arco Takes Stand on Discrimination in Clubs". Los Angeles Times.
- Abby Sewell (March 20, 2011). "Changing Tradition". Los Angeles Times.
- Reich, Kenneth (October 24, 1987). "Foe of Women in Club Claims Support". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
- Reich, Kenneth (March 17, 1988). "California Club Reconfirms Its Vote to Admit Women". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- Susan Seager (May 27, 1987). "Discrimination banned at private clubs". United Press International.
- "Driving Directions". California Club. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- "Weekly Highlight: The California Club, Los Angeles, California". National Park Service.
- "Weekly List Actions". National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- David L. Clark, A History of the California Club, 1887–1997.
- Maynard McFie, The History of the California Club.