Jump to content

Colonial Club

Coordinates: 40°20′55.8″N 74°39′10.1″W / 40.348833°N 74.652806°W / 40.348833; -74.652806
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Colonial Club
Colonial Club is located in Mercer County, New Jersey
Colonial Club
Colonial Club is located in New Jersey
Colonial Club
Colonial Club is located in the United States
Colonial Club
Location40 Prospect Ave, Princeton, New Jersey
Coordinates40°20′55.8″N 74°39′10.1″W / 40.348833°N 74.652806°W / 40.348833; -74.652806
ArchitectRobert W. Gibson and Francis G. Stewart
Architectural styleColonial revival
Part ofPrinceton Historic District (ID75001143[1])
Added to NRHP27 June 1975

Colonial Club is one of the eleven current eating clubs of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, United States.[2] Founded in 1891, it is the fifth oldest of the clubs. It is located on 40 Prospect Avenue.

A private social club for undergraduates at Princeton University, the club was referred to as "flamboyant Colonial" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel, This Side of Paradise, and was defined as being one of the "top five" clubs along with Ivy, Cottage, Cap & Gown, and Tiger Inn. As the first eating club to both abandon the selective bicker process and become coeducational in 1969, Colonial Club has been heralded for its progressive legacy.[3]

Colonial Club has been affiliated with over 7 Rhodes Scholars and several Valedictorians of Princeton University. Among the Princetonians who were involved in the World War II code-breaking at Bletchley Park, some were allegedly from Colonial Club.[4]

The club has served as the primary social scene for several notable alumni during their undergraduate years, including former Colonial Club Vice President Joseph Nye '58, co-founder of the international relations theory of neoliberalism, Pete Conrad '53, third man to walk on the Moon, Eric Schmidt '76, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. and former CEO of Google, and Ted Cruz '92, U.S. Senator and candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election.


The club occupies a large mansion on the north side of Prospect Avenue in Princeton, NJ. The building is easily recognizable by its four large white columns fashioned in Colonial style. The current building has served as the clubhouse for Colonial since 1906. After originally occupying several locations farther away from campus, the current house was built during a time of strong rivalry between eating clubs, across the street from rival clubs Ivy and Cottage.

Colonial club in the winter

Colonial's first clubhouse was located on 306 Nassau Street and served as the club's residence for only one year. In 1892, the club moved to a house on 186 Nassau Street fashioned in the period's cottage architecture, featuring a front facade in the Queen Anne style. The club subsequently moved to Prospect Avenue in 1897, taking over the old Ivy Club house and changing the exterior by adding decorative columns and enlarging the lower floor. This third clubhouse lasted 9 years until the current clubhouse was built, funded by the issuance of bonds to graduate members and alumni. The new clubhouse was designed by associated architects Robert W. Gibson and Francis G. Stewart of New York City.[5]

The current clubhouse features a wide variety of facilities, including a large foyer, cloak room, dining hall, kitchen, library, home theatre, game and billiards room, taproom, computer cluster, offices, various study rooms, and over a dozen bedrooms. The club's undergraduate officers reside in the mansion's third floor.


Early history[edit]


Colonial Club's first clubhouse, 1891–1892.

Founded in 1891 under the presidency of H.P. 'Bert' Fisher '93, the club was formed by a group of 13 Princeton University juniors, who originally called themselves the "Plug and Ulster Club." The club's founders initially encountered opposition by the president of the college, Reverend Francis L. Patton, who opposed to the establishment of a boy's club adjacent to Evelyn College, Princeton's coordinate women's college. After agreeing to several provisions, Colonial Club was founded and situated itself in an old Virginian, three-story veranda house. The original section consisted of several notable students including Booth Tarkington, founder of the Princeton Triangle Club. The club later was formerly incorporated in 1896 as The Colonial Club of Princeton University.

Great War Era[edit]

After the sinking of the Lusitania, military training became the principal activity on campus. Only a few of the eating clubs remained open during this time. Colonial Club temporarily considered combining with Tiger Inn until the full membership of the various clubs returned to college after the war. Almost the entire 1917 section left college to enter various branches of service, and the entirety of the 1919 section was drafted, leading to the closing of the club. Several club members perished during World War I, including John G. Agar Jr. '14, Joseph M. Duff Jr. '12, Gordon C. Gregory '18, and Samuel F. Pogue '04. Colonial Club's 1920 section managed to revive the club after the war, under the guidance of W. Irving Harris '20 and Harvey S. Firestone Jr. '20, who later was chairman of the board of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.

Colonial Club Houseparties, 1938

Great Depression and WWII[edit]

Surprisingly, Colonial Club enjoyed its biggest years in the thirties. The original 1933 section of thirty men was the largest that had ever entered the club up to that time, most of whom were students in the university's Politics Department. According to the Colonial Club 100th Anniversary Book, the most striking feature of the club proved to be the members' "bland unawareness of the significance of outside events in those days...few believed that the invasion of Manchuria or Hitler's rise to power carried a personal threat to us."[6]

Colonial Club Dinner, Delmonicos, N.Y., March 27, 1920

Colonial Club's tradition of having its formal club dinners in New York began in 1934 in an effort to bring together graduate and undergraduate members. The tradition has continued into the 21st century, with member and alumni dinners commonly held at the Princeton Club of New York.

In the 1940s, Colonial Club continued to hold its place as one of the "Big Five" socially prominent eating clubs, along with Ivy, Cottage, Cap & Gown, and Tiger Inn. At the time, 80% of the members came from private preparatory schools, largely in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, with the primary campus activity being Triangle Club and crew. Membership dropped during World War II, with over 18 members ranging from the 1914 section to the 1941 section perishing in the conflict.

Cold War era[edit]

After the world war, however, Colonial's extravagant style and activities returned to the club's normal affairs. Nearly $15,000 (around $150,000 in 2016) was once spent to hire Lester Lanin's Orchestra, and parties reminiscent of those in the Roaring Twenties became a staple of club life. By the end of the 50s, many of the traditional social amenities of earlier eras began to fade; buffet style became fashionable in lieu of the club's traditional white tablecloths, linen napkins, and waiters.

In the 60s, the club experienced several changes. The clubhouse's third floor bedrooms, which long held the staff of waiters, were renovated into rooms for members. Variable section sizes and a drop in alumni financial support occasionally led to tough financial situations for the club.

Colonial Club Members during the height of World War II

During this time, Colonial became the first of the clubs to go non-selective in 1969. This move, strongly encouraged by university officials, coincided with the club's admittance of female members. Unlike some of the other eating clubs including Ivy Club, which did not allow women until a lawsuit in 1991, Colonial permitted women to join once Princeton University began to admit women as undergraduates in the same year.[7] The inclusion of women in the club's daily life noticeably led to more small parties and events around the clubhouse.

The club's financial difficulties gradually continued into the 70s and 80s, during which the club's Graduate Board of Governors considered closing the club. Efforts by several of the undergraduate officers, including president Jaime Isbester and vice president April Gilbert, kept the club afloat via a fundraising campaign that raised more than $650,000 (over $2 million in 2016). Graduate members including Jack Dorrance '41, then chairman of the Campbell Soup Company, single-handedly donated over $100,000 in the club's Centennial Campaign.

Modern history[edit]


Colonial Club Christmas Celebration, 2015

Interest in the club reached a low point in 1999 when only 26 members of the class of 2001 signed into Colonial. Aggressive event planning by the classes of 2000 and 2001, along with generous alumni support and an enthusiastic and dedicated class of 2002, brought the club back from the brink. This was at least the third time the club had been rescued from near-oblivion; 1982 and 1988 also had seen very low sign-in numbers. In 2010, however, Colonial managed to recruit only 13 members in the first round of sign-ins; this was a massive drop from the 87 first round sign-ins from the previous year.[8] The club was still able to attract a substantial number of new members during the second round of sign-ins that same year. In 2011, a huge turnaround occurred when over 130 sophomores signed into the club, which was the largest number of sophomores to join any of the eating clubs.

Throughout this period, the club has seen both the size and demographics of each section shift drastically. Nonetheless, the openness of the club, as demonstrated in 1969, remained a hallmark of the club's culture and shaped the club into the next decade.

Club culture[edit]

Activities and traditions[edit]

Lawnparties at Colonial Club, 2015, featuring Lil Dicky

Continuing its established traditions originating from the Roaring Twenties, Colonial frequently hosts events for its members and guests including game nights, intramural sports, semiformals, and winter and spring house parties. The club also participates in events such as trivia night, club field days, bonfires, outdoor BBQs, and therapy dog study breaks. As with other the eating clubs, Colonial has participated in the university's annual Lawnparties, hosting artists such as Ray J and Lil Dicky. Traditions at Colonial include its annual medieval feast and thesis phrase, where members attempt to insert a humorous line into their Princeton University senior thesis.

Fresh oysters prepared by Chef Ramirez at Colonial Club

Colonial's large, white columns are often seen illuminated by lights on Friday nights, when the club is open to students of Princeton University and other members of the Princeton community.

As an eating club, Colonial members often have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the clubhouse daily, with brunch served on the weekends. The club's buffet-style meals often feature an open grill, smoothie station, and panini bar. Other popular options include the club's fresh oysters, BBQ ribs, udon, fish tacos, Korean short ribs, and pork buns. In the 1960s, Colonial was the second of the eating clubs to offer a vegetarian contract, which was slightly cheaper than the regular meal plan offered to members.[9]

Academics and community service[edit]

Colonial has been committed to maintaining a rigorous scholarly community and providing professional opportunities to its members. The club's Professor Dinner Series allows members and guests to debate and discuss various topics with university professors, who are invited weekly to the club to discuss their research or engage in conversation. Furthermore, the club manages a student-run portfolio of over $100,000 in assets under management (AUM) and hosts its own in-house software development team.

Colonial Club has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the Princeton-Blairstown Center, a program founded in 1908 by Princeton University students and faculty that attempts to transform the lives of young people through character-building experiences. The club holds an annual charity talent show in order to raise money for a variety of nonprofit organizations including HomeFront NJ. In addition, Colonial Club is noted for its enthusiasm towards influenza vaccines, leading all Princeton eating clubs in flu shots for H1N1, H5N1, and every major flu strain seen since 1975. This was sparked by Colonial's loss of 90% of its members to the 1918 flu pandemic.


Colonial Club Undergraduate Officers, 2012

As with the past century, Colonial Club is managed by the Graduate Board of Governors, composed of graduate members of the club, and the Undergraduate Officers, who are elected each December. Colonial Club's executive chef, Gilberto Ramirez, has been in post for over 11 years. Ramirez graduated from the French Culinary Institute and previously worked at TPC Jasna Polana. The club is also directed by a club manager, Kathleen Galante, who oversees day-to-day affairs.

Colonial Club celebrated its 125th anniversary under graduate president Joseph Studholme '84, who has led the board since 2009, and undergraduate president Christopher J. Yu '17. Continuing its 1934 tradition of having formal member-alumni dinners, the club held its 125th Anniversary Celebration with a cruise dinner aboard the Atlantica Yacht on the New York Harbor.

Notable alumni[edit]

Pete Conrad '53, the third man to walk on the Moon, was a Colonial member. Conrad carried five Princeton flags to the Moon; he later gave one to the club. This memento was destroyed in a fire while it was being framed for display at Colonial's "Burn Baby Burn" Pyrotechnic extravaganza.

Other famous Colonial alumni include the late Rhode Island senator Claiborne Pell '40, famous for creation of Pell grants in 1973; novelist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Booth Tarkington, who was a member of the original "Ye Plug and Ulster," which became Colonial; Norman Thomas 1905, the chief Socialist in the United States and Socialist candidate in every presidential election from 1928 to 1948; noted Princeton illustrator William B. Pell 1898;[10] Eric Schmidt '76, former CEO of Google; and Edward F. Cox '68, who married Tricia Nixon in the Rose Garden at the White House in 1971.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is an alumnus of Colonial Club from the class of 1992.[11]

Anne Holton, former Virginia Secretary of Education and the wife of U.S. Senator and 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine is an alumnus of Colonial Club from the class of 1980.[12]

Historic photographs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Princeton Historic District". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ Hu, Winnie (July 29, 2007). "More Than a Meal Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06.
  3. ^ "The Eating Clubs of Princeton University: Colonial Club".
  4. ^ "Princetonians in the Ultra Service". Princeton Alumni Weekly. May 27, 1975.
  5. ^ "Plates and Illustrations," Architecture 12, no. 1 (July 15 1905): 101.
  6. ^ 100th Anniversary Book, p. 58.
  7. ^ Lippman, Caroline (2016-02-18). "New eating club presidents hope to improve member events, sense of community". The Princetonian. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  8. ^ Brean, Molly (2010-02-01). "Thirteen join Colonial in first-round sign-ins". dailyprincetonian.com. Archived from the original on 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  9. ^ 100th Anniversary Book, p. 108.
  10. ^ Sykes, M'Cready (1904). Poe's Run and Other Poems. Princeton University Press.
  11. ^ "Ted Cruz '92 isn't welcome back to Colonial, his old club". The Tab, Princeton University. 2015-10-19. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  12. ^ Brown, Sarah (2005-12-07). "Holton '80 no stranger to political spotlight". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on 2016-08-20. Retrieved 2019-09-19.

External links[edit]