CHAPTER XI: THE EATING CLUBS OF PROSPECT AVENUE

A Walk Down Prospect Avenue

Stretching down Prospect Avenue in a stately double row, Princeton's privately operated upperclass eating clubs collectively encompass one of the most evocative and architecturally compelling groups in Princeton.

These buildings are an important part of the architectural legacy of the University's Golden Age: monuments to an affluent and exuberant era at the turn of the century when Princeton's prestige was rising fast. And although the club system that spawned these structures has changed considerably, the view of the clubs from the arch of 1879 Hall hasn't changed appreciably in 75 years.
[3D View]

Starting on the southeast corner of Washington Road and Prospect, first in line comes Campus Club , [32-16]
whose dark brick Gothic style echoes Palmer Hall and 1879 Hall across the road. Adjacent to Campus and of similar style and materials is Tower , [32-37]
followed by the Cannon Club , [32-41]
with its signature fieldpiece in the front yard. Next to Cannon stands Quadrangle's Georgian Revival clubhouse. [32-30]

Then the architectural heart of Prospect Avenue: first the ageless, understated Gothic beauty of Ivy Club , [32-8]
followed by McKim, Mead, and White's spectacular Georgian design for University Cottage Club . [32-64]
Next to Cottage stands the dark brick Gothic edifice of Cap & Gown , [32-47]
with its distinctive exterior detailing.

After Cap & Gown comes the arched facade of Cloister Inn , [32-40]
a late arrival to Prospect Avenue that mirrors the Collegiate Gothic style and materials predominant on the campus during the 1920s. Charter Club , [32-53]
Cloister's neighbor to the east, echoes the stone neo-Colonial mansions common on the Philadelphia Main Line.

Finishing off the south side of Prospect Avenue are two other late arrivals to the club scene, both now defunct: Key & Seal , [32-31]
a handsome Gothic design done in brick and limestone, and furthest from the campus, the modest brick home of Court Club . [33-17]

On the north side of Prospect stand four more clubs: Dial Lodge , [32-61]
a handsome stone building that recalls an English manor house; imposing Colonial Club , [32-57]
with its larger- than- life portico and columns; and then the mock- Tudor Tiger Inn , [32-92]
reputedly inspired by an old English tavern from Chelsea. Elm Club [32-66]
comes last, a lone Italianate Revival design among Georgian, Gothic, and Colonial neighbors.

The view from the 1879 Arch doesn't capture all of Princeton's 19 eating clubs. Four were not located on Prospect Avenue: Arch Club [33-18]
operated for its brief existence out of a house on Washington Road to the north of Prospect Avenue; Arbor Inn , [42088]
the last eating club chartered by the university, occupied a French- style villa near Palmer Stadium on Ivy Lane.

Adjacent to Campus Club on Washington Road stands Terrace Club , [32-89]
which started life as the Colonial Revival home of Professor (later President) John Hibben and was renovated into the half- timbered Tudor clubhouse that stands today. Gateway Club , [32-32]
one of the shortest- lived clubs, had its clubhouse in a modest personal residence immediately south of Terrace, on the lot now occupied by the Center for Jewish Life.

Today, only 12 of these structures continue to serve as upperclass eating clubs, serving about three-quarters of all upperclassmen. Dial Lodge lies vacant. Key & Seal and Court are called Stevenson Hall and have been converted to university-run dining facilities. Cannon and Arbor currently house a foundation and academic offices. Arch and Gateway have been demolished.

The Architectural Evolution of Prospect Avenue

Prospect Avenue's architectural history spans only the short, frenetic period at the turn of the century when the clubhouses that stand today were actually designed and built. Indeed, one of the most extraordinary aspects of the entire club phenomenon is the speed at which the clubs formed and raised their own buildings. By the time this boom in club construction ended, Princeton's 19 eating clubs would occupy dozens of different buildings in a bewildering array of moves, renovations, and new facilities.

Keeping track of the various incarnations of the clubs as they jitterbugged around Prospect Avenue can be confusing. To provide some context for this intricate dance -- and to help make sense of the architectural evolution of Prospect Avenue as a whole -- it is possible to divide the development of the clubs into three loose phases. Although it wasn't apparent at the time, each of these phases is marked by corresponding shifts in club architecture.

First, there was the period of creation, lasting from the late 1870s roughly through the turn of the century.
[3D View] This era saw the first clubs take root at Princeton

(go to Origins of the Club System ) and also saw the construction of the first custom- built clubhouses on Prospect Avenue.

In keeping with the times, the overall style of these early clubs was in line with the domestic architecture of the period -- informal, suggestive of the idyllic, pastoral life deemed appropriate for young gentlemen of the late 19th century. Ivy's first building on Prospect Avenue [32-7]
and Tiger Inn [32-92]
are representative of the choice of a domestic rather than institutional style. (Go to Early History of Prospect Avenue )

The second period, the decade of 1900-1910, saw the clubs ascendant, and it was during this era that the clubs became firmly and forever established as Princeton institutions.
[3D View] And as the clubs grew more established and adopted increasingly formal models and practices, so too did their architectural tastes and ambitions mature. Thus we see a progression from the more countrified early clubs to the extremely formal, luxurious buildings of the early 1900s.

Built variously in Colonial, Gothic, and Georgian styles, these structures reflect the club phenomenon at its ostentatious and competitive height. (The building rivalry between Ivy, [32-70]
Cottage, [32-38]
and Colonial, [32-39]
was particularly intense.) These clubs and others of this period, notably Cap & Gown, [32-47]
also set a tone for the future. Virtually all the clubs built afterwards would echo these same formal styles. (Go to The Clubs Ascendant )

Finally, the clubs went through a period of consolidation before and after World War I, when Prospect Avenue assumed its current form.
[3D View] During this phase, such buildings as Charter, Tower, Quadrangle, and Dial Lodge were built. If stylistically consistent with existing clubs on the street, however, none of these later structures aspired to the same grandeur as the clubhouses of the early period.

In part, this deliberate scaling back in the size and opulence of club buildings reflects the rising costs of club construction and the more limited means of the newer clubs. But it also reflects an architectural response to the assault on the extravagance of the club system that was led by Woodrow Wilson. Although Wilson's "Quad Plan" was ultimately derailed by alumni opposition, it did much to influence the last phase of club development.

Dial Lodge, for example, was organized during the midst of the turmoil over the Quad Plan, and its members deliberately selected the name "lodge" to distance their new organization from the older, more elitist clubs. (The word "Lodge" also helped appease Wilson, who as President could have scuttled the club's charter.) Further, the last several clubhouses built -- Key & Seal [32-31]
and Cloister, [32-40]
for example -- were relatively modest and influenced more by academic models (especially the Collegiate Gothic of the university campus) than by their older peers. (Go to Prospect Stabilizes: 1910-1935 )

As a cohesive unit, then, Prospect Avenue was essentially complete by the mid- 1920s and none of the subsequent changes have dramatically altered the basic architectural perspective along Prospect. Walk along the street today and you can still discern traces of all three phases of the architectural development of the clubs.

To read more about the architectural phases of Prospect, click on one of the text sections listed. To trace the development of a particular club, click on the name of that club.

Architectural Phases of Prospect

The Origins of the Club System

Early History of Prospect Avenue

The Clubs Ascendant: 1900-1910

Prospect Stabilizes: 1910-1935

Sidebars on Clubs

Ivy Club (1879) [32-8]

University Cottage Club (1886) [32-64]

Tiger Inn (1890) [32-92]

Cap & Gown Club (1890) [32-47]

Colonial Club (1891) [32-57]

Elm Club (1895) [32-66]

Cannon Club (1895) [32-41]

Campus Club (1900) [32-16]

Quadrange Club (1901) [32-30]

Charter Club (1901) [32-53]

Tower Club (1902) [32-37]

Terrace Club (1904) [32-89]

Key & Seal Club (1904-1968) [32-31]

Dial Lodge (1907) [32-61]

Arch Club (1911-1917) [33-18]

Cloister Inn (1912) [32-40]

Gateway Club (1913-1937) [32-32]

Court Club (1921-1964) [33-16]

Arbor Inn (1923-1959) [33-2]

3-D VIEWS REFERENCED IN TEXT


[3D View] Prospect Avenue c.1995, from 1879 Arch


[3D View] Prospect Avenue c.1890, from 1879 Arch


[3D View] Prospect Avenue c.1909, from 1879 Arch


[3D View] Prospect Avenue c.1897, from 1879 Arch (TI only current club)


[3D View] Prospect Avenue c.1917, from 1879 Arch, includes Quad, Dial

The Origins of the Club System

Early History of Prospect Avenue

The Clubs Ascendant: 1900-1910

Prospect Stabilizes: 1910-1935

SIDEBARS ON CLUBS