Downtown Athletic Club
The Downtown Club is the red brick building in the middle.
Location within Lower Manhattan
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|Location||20 West Street, New York, New York 10004|
|Roof||518 ft (158 m)|
|Top floor||515 ft (157 m)|
|Design and construction|
Starrett & Van Vleck
The Downtown Club, formerly known as the Downtown Athletic Club, was a private social and athletic club in a 45-story building located at 20 West Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. It is currently in use as a residential building with condominiums.
The Club was founded in 1926. By 1927, it had purchased this site next to the Hudson River to construct its own building. It was completed in 1930.
The high cost of land necessitated a tall building, and the relatively small lot size dictated that the different functions and facilities of the club, including swimming pool, gymnasium, miniature golf course, squash, and tennis courts, as well as dining rooms and living quarters, be accommodated on separate floors. The Club flirted with bankruptcy in the late 1990s. Discussions were held with local real estate developers to sell off the top hotel floors and for the Club to retain ownership of the lower floors; however, this never came to pass.
The building was designed in a classic Art Deco decor. Its architects, Starrett & van Vleck are also noted for designing several New York City department stores including Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue shortly before the design of this Club. It has been designated as a landmark in New York, ensuring the building's unique architectural legacy.
September 11 and subsequent bankruptcy
The club was less than half a mile south of the World Trade Center and closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The club never reopened, and declared bankruptcy in 2002. The 45-story building is now a residential tower named "The Downtown Club" which opened in 2005.
The clubhouse within the building was not physically damaged in the attack on September 11, 2001, but it was located within the "frozen zone" from which the public was excluded for an extended period during the clean-up after the attack. The club's finances could not withstand the financial impact of such a long closure. The members, as well as the dedicated managers and employees, some who had been with the club for over 20 years, were devastated at the loss of the club and their livelihood.
It was most famous for its annual awarding of the Heisman Trophy in its building, given every year to the most outstanding college football player, and named after John Heisman, the club's first athletic director. The Heisman Trophy was relocated temporarily uptown to the Yale Club of New York City. The ceremony moved to the Hilton New York for 2004 and has been presented annually at the Best Buy Theater since 2005. ESPN has provided television coverage of the Heisman Trophy presentation from 1995 to the present.