From its inauspicious start a meeting attended by less than 25 persons back in 1865, the story of the Harvard Club of New York City is a series of afflictions of growing pains-until today the club has surpassed the 5000 mark in membership.
The club did not always have the spacious quarters it now occupies on Forty fourth street. Completed in 1915, the present buildings are the outgrowth of construction began 1895. This was the first Harvard Club house, in fact the first club-house built by the alumni of any American college.
Origins of the Club
The earliest origins of the organization can be traced back to a communication issued on October 31, 1865 to the "Alumni of Harvard college resident in New York" calling them together "to consider the feasibility of instituting a society to bring together, more intimately, the members of their college in the city."
"The peculiar influence and spirit of Cambridge education and associations," the letter continued, "would seem a sufficient bond of sympathy on which to base such a society, even among persons widely diverse in age and pursuits."
A few days later despite the fact that there was no "general interest demanding" such a gathering, at the meeting held pursuant to the call of the committee, the Harvard Club of New York City was brought into precarious existence.
First Successful Gathering
The first official gathering of the Club after its foundation was at a dinner given at Delmonico's in February, 1866. 145 Harvard men in and immediately about New York "including Brooklyn," were asked to attend the affair, generally referred to as the "Lane Dinner," which was a decided success.
According to the New York Evening Post of the following day, "a large and generous spirit prevailed. The Harvard spirit did not degenerate into exclusive pride of self-admiration . . . The general spirit was that this must not be the last social meeting of sons of Harvard in New York City."
For a number of years the progress of the club was slow. The next annual dinner was held in 1867 and then again in 1869 at Delmonico's which gradually became the regular rendez-vous for meetings and dinners. After four or five lean years the club slowly began to gather that momentum which was to result in unprecedented success. By 1871 the membership had jumped to 139 and by 1879 over 250 Harvard men had joined the organization.
One of the first things the club took up in its official capacity was the question of securing representation on the Board of Overseers, which was then limited to residents of the state of Massachusetts. A resolution was passed proposing that the "Club suggest to its members and electors generally to recommend the Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows and no other person" to the standing committee of the alumni association which had charge of the nomination and election of Overseers. Bellows was eventually elected at the commencement in 1879.
With this victory fresh in mind, the organization entered upon a period of development and expansion. In 1886 it finally found it necessary to take its own quarters--renting a location at 11 West 22nd Street. The club continued to grow with rapidity and the quarters soon proved inadequate, necessitating a significant and far-reaching step.
In 1892, the present site on 44th street was purchased and the clubhouse was opened in 1895--45 years ago. Additions followed rapidly as the group outgrew the building. In 1905 athletic facilities and quarters in which to house members were added and in 1915 the capacity of the house was doubled. With this addition the physical growth of the club's facilities has evidently been finally completed.
In 1895, when the original house was opened the membership totalled about 700 members. Their numbers had increased by 1905 to about 2,500 and since then have been more than doubled.