Racquet and Tennis Club
Racquet and Tennis Club Building
|Location||370 Park Ave.
New York, New York
|Architect||William S. Richardson of McKim, Mead and White|
|Architectural style||Italian Renaissance|
|NRHP Reference #||83001741|
|Added to NRHP||July 13, 1983|
Designed by Charles Follen McKim of the former firm McKim, Mead, and White in an integrated Italian Renaissance style, the Racquet and Tennis Club building is representative of the ornate private clubs constructed in New York during the early twentieth century. Today it performs an important architectural role on Park Avenue as a foil to the Seagram Building and the Lever House and other corporate structures in the glass-clad vocabulary of International Modernism.
Construction began on December 20, 1916, and was completed on September 7, 1918. The builder was Mark Edlitz, and the estimated cost was $400,000. The building is about 200 feet by 100 feet (30 m x 60 m) and five stories tall. The exterior is stone and brick over a structural steel frame. According to the original plans, the interior contained three dining rooms, a billiard room, library, lounge, gymnasium, four squash courts, two court tennis (real tennis) courts, and two racquets courts. Today, there are four International squash courts, one North American doubles squash court, one racquets court, and the two court (real) tennis courts.
On July 13, 1983, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The club sold its air rights on Park Avenue to a developer a number of decades ago, resulting in the unusual sight, for New York, of a glass-clad skyscraper rising in the middle of the block, immediately behind the club.
Unlike many other private clubs that once catered exclusively to men and now admit women, the Racquet and Tennis has held fast to its men-only membership policy. (Women are welcome at club social events, however.) Its ancestor, The Racquet Court Club, opened in 1876 at 55 West 26th Street with only a racquets court. The second club house at 27 West 43rd Street (1891) had one racquet court and one real tennis court. The club moved to the Park Avenue home in 1918.
In 1987, the club famously refused to allow Evelyn David (who was, obviously, not a member of the club) to train for the Women's World Tennis Championship, citing its men-only rules. At the time, David was considered by several leading members of the club to be in the top six or seven female court tennis players in the United States.
Club professionals have been world champions in both racquets and real tennis. The most famous was Pierre Etchebaster, Real Tennis World Champion (1928–1956). Neil Smith was World Racquets Singles Champion (1999–2001), and World Doubles Champion (1992–2001). James Stout has been Racquets World Champion since 2008. Tim Chisholm (partnered by Julian Snow) won the Real Tennis Doubles World Championship in 2001.
The Racquet and Tennis Club played an important role in the history of backgammon: In 1931 Wheaton Vaughan, who was chairman of the club's Card and Backgammon Committee then, invited representatives of other clubs in New York and elsewhere to formulate the Laws of Backgammon. This set of rules is the basis of the rules according to which backgammon is played around the world today.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Comparison with Giulio Romano's Palazzo del Te serves to show how strikingly original [McKim's design is.
- Newton, James S. (1987-03-28). "Bastion of Court Tennis Keeps Woman on Sideline". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- Historic American Buildings Survey No. HABS NY-5466
- Media related to Racquet and Tennis Club at Wikimedia Commons