It was founded in 1903 by a group of prominent men who belonged to other New York City private clubs, such as the Knickerbocker Club and the Union Club. The name is derived from the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem The Brook, whose lines "For men may come and men may go, but I go on for ever" were consistent with the intention that the Club would provide 24-hour service and would never close its doors. In 1992, the City Journal wrote that the name was "supposed to mean that the Club is always open and the conversation flows on forever," but that "neither is strictly true." One version of the club's origin holds that The Brook was formed by two young men who had been expelled from the Union Club for trying to poach an egg on the bald head of another club member.
When the club was formed, it was announced that membership was only by private invitation and would be limited to 100 men. New York City residents who were not club members would not be admitted as guests. Membership, however, was not restricted to New York City residents — some original members came from Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
In 1954 the membership was 400 men. The Club's building, erected in 1925, was designed by the architecture firm of Delano & Aldrich, who also designed the houses of the Union Club, the Knickerbocker, and other exclusive clubs.
Notable members, past and present
- Fred Astaire - wore a Brook Club hatband in the 1953 film The Band Wagon
- Michael R. Bloomberg - resigned his membership before becoming a candidate for Mayor of New York
- Michel David-Weill - French investment banker and former Senior Partner of Lazard Frères
- Admiral James L. Holloway III
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) - Former President of the United States
- Henry Kissinger - Former Secretary of State
- William K. Vanderbilt II
- John Hay Whitney - visited The Brook and was treated as a member, but he was never actually a member of the club.
- Jerauld Wright
- John Jacob Astor IV - Richest man in America at the time - died in the Titanic
- William A. Chanler - explorer, soldier and US Congressman
- Alejandro Santo Domingo - Billionaire financier
- "New Club is Launched," The New York Times (Apr. 2, 1903).
- Lejeune, Anthony. "A Tour of New York's Clubland," Archived 2008-05-21 at the Wayback Machine. City Journal (Winter 1992).
- The Great Club Revolution, by Cleveland Amory, American Heritage Magazine, December 1954, Volume 6, Issue 1
- Streetscapes/The Architecture of Delano & Aldrich; How an Upper-Class Firm Tweaked Classical Norms by Christopher Gray, April 27, 2003
- Murphy, Dean E. "Bloomberg Quietly Left Four Mostly White Clubs," The New York Times (July 25, 2001)
- "Admiral James L. Holloway III, US Navy (Ret.)," Biographies in Naval History: Naval History & Heritage Command. Accessed Apr. 26, 2011.
- "W.K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and Wife Parted?," The New York Times (Sept. 22, 1909).
- Aldrich, Nelson W. Old Money: The Mythology of Wealth in America (Allworth Communications, Inc., 1996) ISBN 1-880559-64-1, ISBN 978-1-880559-64-2, pages 50-51.