An OBJEKT© production in cooperation with: Sasha Josipovicz & Milosh Pavlovicz. Published in OBJEKT©International 76.
When the opportunity came to join the Newswomen’s Club of New York a few years ago, I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t so much that it was an important historical institution that had seen Eleanor Roosevelt and ace investigative reporter Nelly Bly as members, or that many of the city’s top female reporters are among its illustrious rank and file. It had everything to do with the bar at the National Arts Club.
I had only been to the bar, which is the exclusive watering hole of the Club’s members, a few times for a drink. The truth is that as soon as I walked in I lost almost complete interest in the men who escorted me, and fell in love with the domed, multi-colored stained glass ceiling and the cozy chintz-covered club chairs in the adjoining salon.
The National Arts Club, whose members include everyone from artists to musicians, writers and lawyers, is housed in a double Victorian Gothic townhouse at 14 and 15 Gramercy Park South. The townhouses were remodeled by architect Calvert Vaux for New York politician Samuel Tilden, a short-lived governor of New York State, who ran for president in 1876. Although Tilden, a lawyer, lost that election to Rutherford Hayes, he is probably best remembered in New York as a fierce opponent of Tammany Hall, the city’s notoriously corrupt Democratic party machine. Vaux, who is best remembered for his design work on Central Park, joined the two townhouses into an ornate 40-room mansion. Tilden spared no expense. The residence’s facade was adorned with the carved heads of Goethe, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton and Benjamin Franklin.
“The house represents the remodeling of the facades of two Brownstones, and the design is a display of Italian Renaissance elements applied to the New York town house of the period,”
gushed the bureaucrats at New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the Club an important architectural landmark in 1966.
The National Arts Club
The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by author and poet Charles De Kay, the literary and art critic for The New York Times. He together with a group of distinguished artists and patrons conceived of a gathering place to welcome artists of all genres as well as art lovers and patrons. At the turn of the 20th century American artists began to look to our own country rather than to Europe for inspiration, and the American art world was alive with energy. The newly-formed National Arts Club took residence in a mansion on 34th Street. American art had a new home.