“Hey, I wonder what’s behind that door?”
It’s a question that most New Yorkers ask themselves countless times, almost subconsciously, as they wander through the city each day. These doorways certainly intrigue us, but in the end, we only ever step into maybe one percent of the buildings that we pass by in this city. All those other thresholds are off-limits, leaving us to quietly wonder what lies behind that door. And few of these buildings stoke our imaginations quite like New York’s many private clubs. That word, private, says it all.
New York has a long tradition of clandestine clubs that are designed to keep outsiders at bay. It’s who these clubs do choose to let in, though which distinguishes them from one another. Each different club may appeal more to artists, or authors, or politicians, or city planners, depending on their charters, but they all genuinely share one common characteristic: wealth. Let’s face it, these clubs are not for us (that is unless you happen to be a high-society millionaire whose great-great-great-great-great-grandparents arrived on these shores via the Mayflower) to enter, they are for us to ogle at from the outside. So join us for a look, but don’t touch, guide to NYC’s social clubs, because this is the closest we may ever get to know what actually goes on behind these doors.
Address: 101 East 69th Street
Famous Members: John Jacob Astor IV, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ulysses S. Grant.
Fact: The Union Club is the oldest club in New York and the third oldest club in America.
The Knickerbocker Club
Address: 2 East 62nd Street
Famous Members: J.P. Morgan
Fact: The Knickerbocker prides itself on being one of the most private clubs in the world, therefore they have no website and reveal zero information about their members.
Address: 38 East 37th Street
Famous Members: Chester A. Arthur, George H. W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, J.D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt.
Fact: When Theodore Roosevelt first applied to become a member in 1881, he was denied because his mother had been a Confederate sympathizer.
Address: 25 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn
Famous Members: Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy.
Fact: The Montauk Club currently holds parties on November 11th (11/11) in honor of “National Corduroy Day.”
Address: 15 Gramercy Park South
Famous Members: Mark Twain, Martin Scorsese, Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford, Uma Thurman.
Fact: The Club was founded by Charles De Kay, an art critic at The New York Times, as a way of bringing together artists and art-lovers, and membership is still predicated upon an interest in art to this day.
Address: 111 East 54th Street
Famous Members: Fred Astaire, Michael Bloomberg, John F. Kennedy, John Jacob Astor IV, William K. Vanderbilt II.
Fact: The Brook, like The Knickerbocker, is incredibly private and little is actually known of the club. One famous rumor is that the club was founded by two former members of the Union Club which were expelled after trying to poach an egg on a bald member’s head.
Address: 46 East 70th Street
Famous Members: Sir Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Walter Cronkite.
Fact: The Club is legendary for its member’s “famous firsts” including the 1969 moon landing, the first summit of Everest, and the first trips to both the North and South Poles.