On the corner of Eighth Avenue and Lincoln Place in Park Slope, just off Grand Army Plaza, is the Montauk Club, a Venetian Gothic palazzo-inspired private club built in 1891. The interiors, though only open to the public on rare occasions, are often seen in film and on television in shows like Billions, Boardwalk Empire and The Knick. Some of the notable people who have stepped through these doors include four United States Presidents – John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Grover Cleveland, and William McKinley – who gave speeches. The Montauk Club is one of the newest locations in our book Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide and we took these photographs for the book.
The Montauk Club was founded in 1889, in the tradition of private clubs at the height of the Gilded Age. Its headquarters in Park Slope was designed by Frances H. Kimball, a notable architect whose famous buildings still stand in New York City today – including the Trinity and U.S. Realty Buildings on Broadway, the Corbin Building next to Fulton Center, and the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The exterior design of the Montauk Club was inspired by the Ca d’Oro, also known as the Palazzo Santa Sofia, on the Grand Canal in Venice and the architectural influence can be most clearly seen in the Quatrefoil shape of the windows and pointed arches on the façade.
But look closely and you will see references to the Montauk Indians on much of the building’s exterior: terra cotta faces peer out from atop columns and above the main entrance, while a wraparound frieze between the third and fourth floors features scenes related to the Indian tribe. The cast iron fence that wraps around the building also shows Indian faces. In 2004, Chief Robert Pharoah, representing the tribe, was a guest at the 115th Anniversary Celebration of the club.
The club is four stories, plus a basement and an attic. In 1996, the basement, third, fourth and attic stories were converted into condominiums, with residents entering through what was originally the Ladies’ Entrance, just to the left of the main doors. In the basement, a remnant of the original club still remains: the floor shows the markings of a bowling alley. The Montauk Club kept use of the parlor and second floor.
According to the official history of the club, Kimball was very specific regarding the uses of each floor. The first floor parlor level retains a similar use today, with a reception room that features a blue-tiled fireplace, wood panel details, and stained glass windows, and a long event hall now used for events. The dining rooms, originally on the third floor are now on the second floor, which was originally mainly for billiards and cards. A curved wooden bar was added later. One of the nicest places in the Montauk Club is the second floor balcony, where you can have a drink looking out at the green canopy of Prospect Park. Women originally had their own dining room and reception on the third floor, with a kitchen and apartments for men on the fourth floor, and servant quarters in the attic.
The club has regular events for members as well as events hosted by outside organizations, which is your best way to visit. (Untapped Cities was invited to give a talk for the launch of the second edition of Secret Brooklyn recently and opened up the event to our readers). Membership is affordable by design, and as of 2018, $385 for under 35 and over 70, $605 for an individual, $1210 for a family, and free for clergy. Memberships are even lower for those with outside of Brooklyn. If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can contact [email protected] or by completing an application from the Club’s website.
You can get an autographed copy of the book Secret Brooklyn from us. Next, check out 10 of the oldest historic private clubs in NYC and look inside the monumental arch just next door at Grand Army. Plaza.