Behind Closed Doors | New York’s Private Member’s Clubs
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Behind Closed Doors | New York’s Private Member’s Clubs

March 30, 2020 Share

A Look Inside Centuries of Best Private Members’ Clubs and Society

Ever since 1836 NYC’s elite social scene has revolved around a handful of private clubs. Over generations, power-brokers, captains of industry, statesmen and philanthropists have all congregated in these rarefied buildings to discuss business deals, solidify relationships and escape the burdens of daily life with fine scotch and conversation. 

Best Private Members' Clubs
Union Club, Soho

The tradition was imported from the original private members’ clubs of the United Kingdom and Europe who have survived for hundreds of years as secretive conclaves. In Siena we find the world’s oldest surviving club, The Circolo degli Uniti (The  Circle of the United), a palatial club built-in 1657 for a fixed number of 100 members from the local nobility who maintain a strong link to the city. The club is going strong to this day and provides its members with an incomparable view of the city’s famous Palio race held every year in the first week of July (since 1701). 

Best Private Members' Clubs
An 18th-century sketch of the Loggia entrance for the Circolo degli Uniti, Siena

A few short years after the founding of the Circolo, an Italian tea and hot chocolate emporium (then the meeting places de rigueur for men of intellect and status) called ‘Bianco’s’ was formally adopted by the aristocratic supporters of the Tory party in 1693 and converted to a grand members club on St. James called White’s. The foundation of White’s set off a series of new clubs springing up all over Pall Mall and St. James over the years, each symbolizing a different political philosophy or interest, including; Brook’s, Boodle’s, Reform, Travellers, Oxford & Cambridge, Athenaeum, Royal Automobile, amongst plenty of others. 

White’s Club, London

New York City’s club history begins with the Union Club. In 1836 the Club opened its doors to a high-powered conservative member base with a strict set of guidelines and principles.

  The The Great Hall, at The Metropolitan Club,  NYC
The The Great Hall, at The Metropolitan Club, NYC

The stringent criteria for membership later led to disgruntled applicants opening rival clubs including the prestigious Brook, Knickerbocker, Colony, Union League, and the Metropolitan. Interestingly, the Union is only the fifth-oldest club in the United States, with the South River Club in Annapolis, Maryland (founding in 1700), the Schuylkill Fishing Company in Andalusia, Pennsylvania (1732), the Old Colony Club in Plymouth, Massachusetts (1769), and the Philadelphia Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1834) all predating it. 

Today, these clubs evoke a sense of old-world nostalgia that conjure up images of times gone by whilst still being enveloped in a mysterious sense of powerful secrecy. They continue to ignite the imaginations of powerful people, with private societies still being born every year and taking a page out of the European club’s foundations.

The digital world now allows for a new private society to exist internationally and allow its members to congregate seamlessly without the need for a physical clubhouse. DDW joins in this storied tradition by inviting new prospective members across both sides of the Atlantic to apply and join a group of impressive members from the business, art, music and fashion worlds.

Best 100+ Champagne Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash
DDW members gather for the rarest events in the world

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Circolo degli Uniti
Members Club