8. The University Club
One of the hallmarks of the Gilded Age was the advent of private members clubs inspired by the ones in London and accessible only to the upper echelons of society. In New York City, a number of these clubs began springing up, including the Metropolitan Club, the Players Club, the New York Yacht Club, and the Harvard Club. Established in 1865, the University Club declared its mission as “the promotion of literature and art, by establishing and maintaining a library, reading room, and gallery of art, and by such other means as shall be expedient and proper for such purpose.”
It was housed in three different locations before acquiring a large lot on Fifth Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets when St. Luke’s Hospital moved to Morningside Heights. Unsurprisingly, McKim, Mead & White — whose founding partners were all members — were hired to design the grandiose new building, one of the New York’s most glorious Beaux-Arts buildings. They combined elements from several Italian Renaissance palazzos, including Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and Palazzo Bocchi in Bologna. By forgoing a grand central staircase, they were able to create monumental rooms, each one more incredible than the next. There’s the grand salon, the stunning library, the dining room, the tap room, billiards room, and guest rooms as well as a gym, swimming pool, and Turkish Baths in the basement.