Union Club of the City of New York
|Headquarters||101 East 69th Street|
|New York metropolitan area|
The Union Club of the City of New York (commonly referred to as the Union Club) is an exclusive private social club in New York City, founded in 1836. It is located at East 69th Street and Park Avenue in a landmark building designed by Delano & Aldrich that opened on August 28, 1933. The Union Club is the oldest private club in New York City and the third oldest in the United States, after The Old Colony Club, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which was founded in 1769, and the Philadelphia Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1834. The club is considered one of the most prestigious in New York City.
The current building is the club's sixth clubhouse and the third built specifically for the members. The prior two clubhouses were at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, occupied from 1855 to 1903; and on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, a limestone clubhouse occupied from 1903 to 1933.
In 1927, club members voted to move uptown, to a quieter and less crowded location. They hired architects William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich — who had previously designed buildings for the Knickerbocker Club, the Brook Club, and the Colony Club — to design their new clubhouse. The Union moved to its current location in 1933. The building is known for its opulence and idiosyncratic details. At one point the building featured five dining rooms and a humidor with 100,000 cigars. Notable rooms include the card room, the backgammon room, the library, and the lounge (off the squash courts).
From the beginning, the Union Club was known for its strongly conservative principles. In fact, even during the Civil War, the Union refused to expel its Confederate members, despite taking a strong line on suppressing anti-draft riots. This policy, and a belief that The Union's admission standards had fallen, led some members of the Union to leave and form other private clubs (including the Union League Club of New York and The Knickerbocker Club).
In 1918, The Union began using women as waitresses, in order to free male employees for service related to World War I. This was the first time women were officially allowed entrance to the previously male-only enclave.
In 1932, the Union Club boasted 1,300 members. By the 1950s, however, urban social club membership was dwindling, in large part because of the movement of wealthy families to the suburbs. In 1954, Union Club membership had declined to 950 members. In 1959, the Union Club and the Knickerbocker Club considered merging the Union's 900 men with The Knick's 550 members, but the plan never came to fruition.
In popular culture
- In the 1988 film Working Girl, Tess (Melanie Griffith) and Jack (Harrison Ford) gatecrash the wedding of Oren Trask's (Philip Bosco) daughter at the Union Club, where they finally are able to pitch their plan to Trask.
- On the eighth episode of the third season (2012) of HBO's series Boardwalk Empire, titled "The Pony", Nucky Thompson poses as a member of the Kansas City Club in order to gain access to the Union Club via "a reciprocal agreement" between the two clubs, where he proposes a partnership to Andrew Mellon against Harry Daugherty.
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- John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912), millionaire and RMS Titanic victim
- James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918), publisher of the New York Herald, bon vivant and eponym of the British exclamation "Gordon Bennett!"
- Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr. (1897–1961), major general in the U.S. Army and U.S. diplomat
- William Bayard Cutting (1850-1912), attorney, financier, real estate developer, sugar beet refiner and philanthropist
- William A. Chanler (1867-1934), explorer, soldier and US Congressman
- Edward Cooper (1824-1905), mayor of New York City
- Winston Churchill (1871 – 1947), novelist
- Frank Crowninshield (1872-1947), journalist and art and theatre critic
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), thirty-fourth President of the United States
- John Ericsson (1803-1899), inventor and mechanical engineer who designed the USS Monitor
- William M. Evarts (1818-1901), lawyer, US Secretary of State, US Attorney General and US Senator
- Cyrus West Field (1819-1892), businessman and financier who led the Atlantic Telegraph Company
- Luis de Florez (1889-1962), Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and aerospace pioneer
- Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr., member of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), eighteenth President of the United States
- Ulysses S. Grant III (1881-1968), major general in the U.S. Army
- Andrew Haswell Green (1820-1903), lawyer and city planner
- Moses H. Grinnell (1803-1877), shipper and Central Park commissioner during its design and construction
- Pierpont M. Hamilton (1898–1982), general in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and winner of the Medal of Honor
- E. H. Harriman (1848-1909), railroad magnate
- W. Averell Harriman (1891-1986), politician, businessman and diplomat
- William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), newspaper magnate
- Philip Hone (1780-1851), mayor of New York City and 19th century diarist
- Hugh Alwyn Inness-Brown, Sr., New York publisher and journalist
- J. Bruce Ismay (1862-1937), managing director of the White Star Line and RMS Titanic survivor
- Leonard Jerome (1817-1891), financier and grandfather of Winston Churchill
- Philip Kearny (1815–1862), major general in the United States Army, notable for his leadership in the Mexican-American War and American Civil War
- John Alsop King (1788-1867), governor of New York
- Ward McAllister (1827–1895), self-appointed arbiter of New York society from the 1860s to the early 1890s
- Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), professor and credited author of A Visit from St. Nicholas
- J. P. Morgan (1837-1913), financier, banker, philanthropist, and art collector
- Winthrop Rockefeller (1912–1973), Governor of Arkansas
- Winfield Scott (1786-1866), United States Army general
- Philip H. Sheridan (1831-1888), general in the Union Army
- William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), general in the Union Army and businessman, educator, and author
- Leland Stanford (1824-1893), business magnate, politician and founder of Stanford University
- Edwin Augustus Stevens (1795-1868), founder of the Stevens Institute of Technology
- John Cox Stevens (1785-1857), first Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and member of the syndicate that won the first America's Cup trophy in 1851
- A. T. Stewart (1803-1876), retailing pioneer
- Rutherford Stuyvesant (1843-1909), builder of the first apartment building in New York City in 1869
- Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), shipping and railroad entrepreneur
- Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884-1970), railroad executive, yachtsman and bridge player
- Sumner Welles (1892-1961), government official and diplomat
- George Carroll Whipple III, Society reporter for NY1 and Time Warner Cable News
- James T. Woodward (1837–1910), banker and owner of major thoroughbred horse dynasty
More than 300 members of the Union Club joined the U.S. military services during World War II. In 1947, the club published Union Club World War II Records 1940 - 1947, recording the military accomplishments of those members who served during the War and who chose to participate in the project.
- "Waitresses at Union Club", The New York Times (June 19, 1918)
- Old Colony Club website
- Pennoyer, Peter and Walker, Anne. The Architecture of Delano & Aldrich (W.W. Norton, 2003).
- Gray, Christopher. "Inside the Union Club, Jaws Drop," New York Times (Feb. 11, 2007).
- "New Club is Launched," The New York Times (April 2, 1903).
- Hurt III, Harry. "Executive Pursuits; Billiards With a Bottle. And This Game Is Dying?," New York Times (Aug. 26, 2006).
- Davis, Dudley; Cassard, Morris Jr.; Curtin, Enos W.; Hoyt, Colgate; Jaques, George W.; Leary, Lamar R., eds. (1947). Union Club World War II Records 1940 - 1947. New York, New York: Union Club of the City of New York, Inc.
- Men of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries, edited by John William Leonard, New York: L.R. Hamersly, 1908, p. 424.
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