Founded in 1901, Charter Club first occupied the Incubator
on Olden Street, recently vacated by Campus Club. By 1903, however, the club was seeking more commodious lodgings and David Adler, Class of 1905, drew up plans for a new, Georgian Revival clubhouse. Charter purchased a lot on the south side of Prospect Avenue, across from University Field, to house the new structure.
Although Adler would later go on to considerable renown as an architect,
was his first work and in the words of one architectural historian, it betrays "the hand of a beginner hesitant to stray far from the handbooks." An early drawing of the clubhouse
closely resembles the finished product, with some small exceptions such as the use of three dormer windows instead of the five in the finished building. In the context of Prospect Avenue's architectural development, the plan for Charter illustrates the transition to more formal buildings that began around the turn of the century.
As built, Adler's Charter
was a rigidly symmetrical Georgian Revival design. The entrance portico was supported by four Doric columns; these columns partially masked a small balcony on the second story. Meanwhile, a strong dental molding crowded the tops of the second-floor windows, while the row of five identical dormers gave the structure a top-heavy appearance. A covered porch
extended to the east, also supported by Doric columns. As a cost-saving measure, the entire structure was built of wood.
In 1905, Charter purchased the lot adjacent to its clubhouse and, in 1913,
resolved to erect a new structure. The old clubhouse was moved away and while
construction was in progress, Charter returned to the Incubator. The new
building, first seen in a rendering
for the Class of 1914 Bric, was designed by a Charter alumnus named Arthur Ingersoll Meigs, Class of 1903, who was a partner in the prominent firm of Mellor and Meigs. His design, Meigs reported to the club alumni, would combine the Georgian and Colonial styles, but because of the choice of stone would blend in well with the Collegiate Gothic of the campus.
Meigs's design for Charter
resembled the manor houses of Philadelphia's Main Line, then popular, and the style translated well for the Princeton eating club. The symmetrical facade improves on Adler's earlier design in several ways: the larger scale gave the building better proportions, while the handsome entrance courtyard and a central pediment with the large Palladian window over the front door provide relief. The finished structure
differed from the rendering in at least two important details. A string course was added to separate the first and second floors, and quoins were added to the entrance pavilion.
As the last of the Georgian Revival clubs built on Prospect Avenue, Charter closed the book on the building rivalry of the early 1900s. In terms of scale and elegance, Charter certainly belongs in the same league as Cottage, Colonial, and Cap & Gown. But Charter also helped make the transition to the more modest club structures that followed. In particular, the use of stone (already pioneered by Cannon Club in 1910) suggested the influence of academic models on Charter. The later clubs would all follow suit.