Friday, December 18, 2009

History of the Defunct Eating Clubs

The eating clubs and their relationship with the university’s administration was recently brought to the attention of the student body with the announcement of a student task-force. This relationship, however, has a long and important history.The ten eating clubs which currently line Prospect Avenue are but a brief teaser of the clubs’ past and their role in Princeton’s physical expansion, academic growth, and social evolution.

Of the approximate 20 clubs that have existed throughout the course of the years, three have had their clubhouses demolished. The site where Gateway & Prospect Clubs once stood is now the location of the Center for Jewish Life. Arch club was torn down to give way to the Woodrow Wilson School’s Robertson Hall. Others have seen their buildings sold, renamed, and partitioned to the University’s academic programs. The recently inaugurated Carl A. Fields Center for Equality & Cultural Understanding used to house Elm Club, just as Dial Lodge was purchased by the university and converted into the Bendheim Center for Finance. Both Key & Seal and Court Club were destined to a similar fate when they were sold to the university and used as a dining facility for upperclassmen, but Stevenson Hall (as it came to be called) was converted into the Bobst Center for Peace & Justice.

As we all know, Campus Club was transformed into a university-run social space following its donation by the alumni board. Finally, the oh-so-mysterious Cannon Club –which was sold to the university in the 70’s and converted into Notestein Hall, the Office for Population Research— is currently owned by an alumni association. Despite of efforts to reopen the club by February of 2008, Cannon Club remains inactive.


Anonymous said...

If you want to invoke history in any discussion of the clubs, you really need to go back more than 100 years.

In the earliest years of the then College of New Jersey, students lived and ate in Nassau Hall. As the college began to expand and add more dormitories to the landscape, initially it did nothing to provide meal service (or its quality was low), so students banded together to form informal eating clubs, where a local would prepare meals for them.

These informal arrangements became more formalized around the beginning of the 20th century as groups found financial backing from alumni to underwrite the purchase of buildings and later build their own for food service purposes.

In roughly this same period, the University (as it was now known) also established a Commons to provide meals for under classmen, in the five halls that now form a portion of Mathey and Rockefeller Colleges. Generations of Princeton men (and many of the first women) all took their meals here during their freshman and sophomore years, while the upperclassmen dined at the clubs.

It was largely because the college (and university) did not provide these services that the clubs came into existence!

Scarlet Knight said...

Woodrow Wilson School’s Richardson Hall

Bobsten Center for Peace & Justice

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always