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Gentlemen's clubs

The noted gentleman's Reform Club

A Gentlemen's club is a members-only private club originally designed for male members of the English upper class. Today, however, they are generally more open about the gender and social status of their potential members. As well, many countries outside the United Kingdom have prominent gentlemen's clubs.

In both Japan and the United States, the term "gentlemen's club" frequently is used as a euphemism for strip clubs - a trend also increasingly common in the United Kingdom, with chains such as Stringfellows and Spearmint Rhino using the term in this way.

The original gentlemen's clubs were established in the West End of London. Even today, the area of St. James's still sometimes is referred to as 'clubland'. Clubs took over the role occupied by coffee houses in 18th century London to some degree, and reached the height of their influence in the late 19th century. Often, they were formed by groups of acquaintances who shared some interest or pursuit. Gambling, usually on cards, was central to the activities of many. Others were characterised by their members' interest in politics, literature, sport, or some other pursuit. In other cases, the connection between the members was membership of the same branch of the armed forces, or a background at the same university. Some of the older clubs were highly aristocratic, but over time, increasingly more were founded. By the late 19th century, any man with a credible claim to the status of "gentleman" was able to find a club willing to admit him, unless his character was very objectionable in some way or he was "unclubbable" (incidentally, a word first used by Samuel Johnson)[1]. This came to include professionals who had to earn their income, such as doctors and lawyers.

It should be noted that public entertainments, such as musical performances and the like, were not a feature of this sort of club. The clubs were, in effect, "second homes" where men could relax, mix with their friends, play parlour games and get a meal. They allowed upper- and upper-middle-class men with modest incomes to spend their time in grand surroundings; the richer clubs were built by the same architects as the finest country houses of the time, and had the same types of interiors. They also were a convenient retreat for men who wished to get away from their female relations. Many men spent much of their lives in their club, some of which even offered overnight accommodation.

The class requirements softened gradually throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, beginning in the late 20th century, some clubs opened to women as guests and as members, partly to help keep up membership levels.

Current status
While it is true that traditional gentlemen's clubs are no longer as popular or influential as they once were, many have seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Some top clubs, however, still maintain distinctions which often are imperceptible and are rarely explained to those who do not satisfy their membership requirements. After reaching the top of a long waiting list, there is a real possibility of being blackballed; the proposer of such a person is expected to resign, as he failed to withdraw his undesirable candidate.

Today, gentlemen's clubs exist throughout the world, predominantly in Commonwealth countries and the United States, i.e. the Anglosphere, and the Cosmos Club. Many clubs offer reciprocal hospitality to other clubs' members when travelling abroad.

In Britain and particularly London, there is a continuum between the original gentlemen's clubs and the more modern but otherwise similar private members' clubs such the Groucho Club, Soho House and Home House. All offer similar facilities such as food, drink, comfortable surroundings, venue hire and in many cases accommodation.

United Kingdom
There are perhaps some 25 London gentlemen's clubs of particular note, from the Athenaeum to White's, see the full list of London's gentlemen's clubs. Many other estimable clubs (such as the yacht clubs) have a specific character which places them outside the mainstream, or conversely may have sacrificed their individuality for the commercial interest of attracting enough members regardless of their common interests. (See article at club for a further discussion of these distinctions.)

Discussion of trade or business usually is prohibited in London gentlemen's clubs, but increasingly more people in politics and business use clubs in the UK and around the world for debates and conferences on current affairs. For example, the Commonwealth Club in London counts former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard as influential people who have spoken there. The use of such establishments for public discussion and debate, however, is in its infancy, as many of the larger and more established clubs strictly enforce their rules on such matters.

Quirks of membership
Some clubs have highly specific membership requirements. For example, the Caledonian Club in London requires "being of direct Scottish descent, that is to say, tracing descent from a Scottish father or mother, grandfather or grandmother" or "having, in the opinion of the Committee, the closest association with Scotland." The Travellers Club, from its foundation in 1819, has excluded from membership anyone "who has not travelled out of the British Islands to a distance of at least five hundred miles from London in a direct line". The Harvard Club is open to all who have a connection with Harvard University. The Reform Club requires its potential members to attest that they would have supported the 1832 Reform Act, whilst the East India Club requires attendance at one of its subscribing public schools.

Australia has several gentlemen's clubs in Sydney and Melbourne. These include the Australian Club, the Melbourne Club, the Weld Club, the Athenaeum Club (named after its counterpart in London), and the Savage Club.

South Africa
South Africa is home to the Rand Club in downtown Johannesburg.

United States
Most major cities in the United States have at least one traditional gentlemen's club. Gentlemen's clubs are more prevalent, however, in older cities on the east coast, such as New York City (which has the largest number of prominent clubs), Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C.. Many American clubs have reciprocal relationships with the older clubs in London, with each other, and with other clubs around the world. Some American clubs date to the 18th and 19th century, like their English counterparts.

New York Clubs

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006 The Players 022 Century Association. 028 Estonian House 048 University Club 063 Century Association Clubhouse
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064 Harvard Club 065 New York Yacht Club 075 Collectors’ Club 090 New York Athletic Club 009 Down Town Assoc.
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008-Metropolitan Club

009-Racquet and Tennis Club

011-Knickerbocker Club 015-Colony Club 042-Union Club
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002 The Montauk Club   043 Cathedral Club of Brooklyn        
Fifth Avenue and its environs are dotted with the (traditionally men's) 
clubs which serviced, and still cater to, its mainly wealthy 
population. When J.P. Morgan, William and Cornelius Vanderbilt, and 
their pals arrived on the social scene in the 1890s, established 
society still looked askance at bankers and financiers, and its 
Downtown clubs were closed to Morgan and anyone else it considered less 
than up to snuff. Never to be slighted or outdone, Morgan commissioned 
Stanford White to design him his own club, bigger, better and grander 
than all the rest – and so the
Metropolitan Club at 1 East 60th St was 
born, an exuberant confection with a marvelously outrageous gateway. 
Just the thing for arriving robber barons.

Another unwelcome group, affluent Jews, founded the elegant Harmonie 
Club in the 1850s and erected its home at 4 E 60th St around the same 
time. So many parvenus caused alarm, and in 1915 the
, a handsome brick Federal-style building on the corner of Fifth 
Avenue and 62nd Street, was erected in response to the "relaxed 
standards" of the
Union Club (101 E 69th St), which had admitted 
several of Morgan's and Vanderbilt's friends. Before even the thought 
of admitting women to these hallowed bastions of old guard maleness 
occurred, there was the
Colony Club on Park Avenue at 62nd Street, 
founded in 1903, and is the city's earliest social club organized by 
women for women. In 1933, Delano & Aldrich, the firm which had designed 
the Knickerbocker Club, constructed an elaborate Colonial building with 
extensive gymnasium and spa facilities as the Cosmopolitan Club, at 122 
E 66th St. This was originally a place where rich women sent their 
governesses, but they eventually reclaimed the building for themselves. 
It's a strange apartment-block-like building, with white ironwork 
terraces reminiscent of New Orleans, and a private garden in the back.

5th Avenue
Doubles Club - 212-751-9595 - 783 5th Avenue (59th & 60th)

Park Avenue

  • Colony Club - 212-838-4200 - 564 Park Avenue (62nd & 63rd)
  • Ziegfeld Club Inc. - 212-751-6688 - 593 Park Avenue (63rd & 64th)
  • City Gardens Club Of Nyc Inc. - 212-737-0138 - 755 Park Avenue (71st & 72nd)

    59th Street

  • H Turk Inc. - 212-688-2339 - 225 E 59th St (3rd & 2nd)

    60th Street

  • Garden Club Of America - 212-753-8287 - 14 E 60th St Fl 3 (5th & Madison)
  • Harmonie Club - 212-355-7400 - 4 E 60th St (5th & Madison)
  • Metropolitan Club - - 1 E 60th St (5th & Madison)
  • Grolier Club - 212-838-6690 - 47 E 60th St (Madison & Park)
  • Ace Point Backgammon Club - 212-753-0842 - 41 E 60th St # 5 (Madison & Park)

    62nd Street

  • Knickerbocker Club - 212-838-6700 - 2 E 62nd St (5th & Madison)
  • Links Club Inc. - 212-838-8181 - 36 E 62nd St (Madison & Park)

    63rd Street

  • Leash - 212-838-0114 - 41 E 63rd St (Madison & Park)

    65th Street

  • Club 200 - 212-688-2929 - 200 E 65th St (3rd & 2nd)

    66th Street

  • Lotos Club - 212-737-7100 - 5 E 66th St (5th & Madison)
  • Vassar Club - 212-697-7499 - 5 E 66th St (5th & Madison)
  • Cosmopolitan Club - 212-734-5950 - 122 E 66th St (Park & Lex)

    67th Street

  • Regency Whist Club - 212-734-1700 - 15 E 67th St (5th & Madison)

    69th Street

  • Union Club - - 101 E 69th St (Park & Lex)
  • Feszek Klub - 212-879-0145 - 346 E 69th St (2nd & 1st)
  • Horizons Yacht & Sports Club - 212-472-2576 - 316 E 69th St (2nd & 1st)

    71st Street

  • Sokol New York - 212-861-8206 - 420 E 71st St (1st & York)

    79th Street

  • Divorce Club - 212-570-2000 - 239 E 79th St (3rd & 2nd)
  • First Hungarian Literary Soc - 212-288-0615 - 323 E 79th St (2nd & 1st)
  • Hungarian Literary Society - 212-288-5002 - 323 E 79th St (2nd & 1st)

    80th Street

  • Gracie Mews - 212-249-6610 - 401 E 80th St (1st & York)

    84th Street

  • Twist Dance Club & Lounge - 212-744-5003 - 207 E 84th St (3rd & 2nd)

    85th Street

  • Opera Index Inc. - 212-861-1651 - 523 E 85th St # B (York & East End)

    86th Street

  • Town Club Of The City Of Ny - 212-876-6020 - 9 E 86th St (5th & Madison)
  • Yorkshire Towers - 212-348-2492 - 305 E 86th St (2nd & 1st)

    87th Street

  • Liederkranz Club - 212-534-0880 - 6 E 87th St (5th & Madison)
  • German Society - 212-360-6022 - 6 E 87th St Fl 4 (5th & Madison)
  • Quadrille Ball - 212-427-5547 - 6 E 87th St (5th & Madison)
  • Two Fifty Owners Corporation - 212-722-4554 - 250 E 87th St (3rd & 2nd)
  • Claridge Club - 212-427-3390 - 201 E 87th St (3rd & 2nd)