There are some places you step into and you’re instantly whisked into a bygone time. The National Arts Club in Gramercy Park is one of those, and it’s not surprising that it’s been used as a film location for Boardwalk Empire. Located next to the similarly stately The Players Club, The National Arts Club is housed in the former Samuel Tilden Mansion.
Tilden was the 25th Governor of New York and had access to the best architects and designers of the era. He hired names like Calvert Vaux, of Central Park fame, and John LaFarge to transform and combine two simpler brownstones into the more opulent place you see today. Vaux took the original facade, reclad it in sandstone and added bay windows and floral ornamentation. LaFarge added stained glass windows inside and Donald McDonald created an impressive stained glass dome. The building is both a city and federal landmark.
In 1906, the National Arts Club moved into the Tilden Mansion from its original 34th Street location when a larger premises was necessary. The club counts three Presidents–Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower–in addition to the numerous painters, sculptors and architects that have formed its ranks.
The mission of the National Arts Club is to “stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts.” These days the club serves multiple functions for members and non-members. There are two galleries for rotating exhibitions, a dining hall with a great prix fix lunch menu and dinner, a bar, and multiple lounge areas. There are numerous subcommittees dedicated to various fields of art, including architecture, film, culinary, fashion, theater arts, literary, music and archaeology. There’s even a French committee called “Le Cocktail Français.”
The club was fully decked out for the holidays when we visited yesterday. Scroll down for a little photographic tour!
The grand staircase:
The dining room:
The second floor art gallery:
Part of the lower gallery:
The firm of Ellin and Kitson created the fireplaces, bookcases and doors in the mansion:
We couldn’t resist taking a photo of the old-fashioned bathroom doors:
A former phone booth still says “TELEPHONE” on the sign but has been converted into a storage closet:
One of the LaFarge stained glass pieces:
View towards the street from the main dining room: