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Old August 30th, 2008, 03:57 AM   #1
MarkR01
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Private Clubs (Maryland Club, Engineers Club, Hamilton Street etc.)

Hello SSC Baltimore,

I've been recently interested in Baltimore culture, and although I'm too young to join one (17), and I also know their influence is declining, but what are your thoughts on private clubs in Baltimore/MD? Is anyone here a member? Has anyone been to one (as member or guest)?



I personally have been to the Engineers Club, because I was curious and wanted to see the inside, and I was very impressed at the architecture and decor. The Center Club for a friend's bar mitzvah and it wasn't that impressive as it didn't have that much history to it. I've been to a bunch of NYC clubs (Union League, Harvard, Penn Clubs) too
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Old January 25th, 2009, 06:32 AM   #2
kevonmartini10
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You are a man of taste!

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Hello SSC Baltimore,

I've been recently interested in Baltimore culture, and although I'm too young to join one (17), and I also know their influence is declining, but what are your thoughts on private clubs in Baltimore/MD? Is anyone here a member? Has anyone been to one (as member or guest)?



I personally have been to the Engineers Club, becaushttp://www.skyscrapercity.com/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=24667678e I was curious and wanted to see the inside, and I was very impressed at the architecture and decor. The Center Club for a friend's bar mitzvah and it wasn't that impressive as it didn't have that much history to it. I've been to a bunch of NYC clubs (Union League, Harvard, Penn Clubs) too
Mark,
While most people may not be aware, Baltimore has a fair amount of very exclusive private clubs on par with those in Boston and New York, and sadly, along with the Blue Book, these clubs are beginning to lose their influence, though they are still alive and well. While I'm sure you already know this, the Engineers Club used to be a private home, and has only been stationed there since 1963, which is about as old as the Center Club. It's not at all highly regarded among the clubs of Baltimore, though it's building is fantastic. The top clubs in Baltimore, according to the Baltimore Blue Book, in descending order, are: The Baltimore Assembly, the Baltimore Country Club, The Maryland Club, The Elkridge Club, The Greenspring Valley Hunt Club, and the L'Hirondelle Club.
I checked out your photo blog, and there are some great pictures on there, keep it up!
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Old January 26th, 2009, 08:59 PM   #3
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Interesting thread. All I know about Baltimore's clubs came from reading old Baltimore history books that my grandmother kept from when she was a little girl. Most of them were written in the 1920s and 30s. Thus, my knowledge on their most recent half-century is little. I am slightly more familiar with the Elkridge Club though.

I'm curious as to why you both agree that it is a shame that their influence is declining. What ind fo influence did they hold?
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Old January 27th, 2009, 08:45 PM   #4
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Interesting thread. All I know about Baltimore's clubs came from reading old Baltimore history books that my grandmother kept from when she was a little girl. Most of them were written in the 1920s and 30s. Thus, my knowledge on their most recent half-century is little. I am slightly more familiar with the Elkridge Club though.

I'm curious as to why you both agree that it is a shame that their influence is declining. What ind fo influence did they hold?
Did anyone in your family belong to any of the clubs I mentioned before? The clubs are notoriously secretive, and there is very little information made public about them. What I mean when I say their influence is declining is that people don't hold them in such high regard as they once did, the membership is shrinking, and along with the Blue Book, they are beginning to be seen as an archaic remnant of another generation.
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Old February 16th, 2009, 06:08 AM   #5
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I can't imagine why anybody who isn't a member of those clubs would care if they went away. They're leftovers of social elites that only serve to exclude people that they don't think are up to their arbitrary standard. I don't have any special bile about that since my experience is that the places are hopelessly dull, but I did get a special chuckle when the Elkridge Club had demonstrators a few years ago when its members objected to Micheal Steele being a member. I guess they had to balance the benefits of a well connected republican against opening the doors to their first black member. I don't recall how that drama played out but somehow Elkridge still looks like the dullest 100 acres of golf on the planet. What passes for excitement is when the sprinklers come on.
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Old February 16th, 2009, 08:15 AM   #6
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Ive been inside the Engineers club for a wedding. Other than that, guess I'm not leet.
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Old February 17th, 2009, 03:18 AM   #7
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I can't imagine why anybody who isn't a member of those clubs would care if they went away. They're leftovers of social elites that only serve to exclude people that they don't think are up to their arbitrary standard. I don't have any special bile about that since my experience is that the places are hopelessly dull, but I did get a special chuckle when the Elkridge Club had demonstrators a few years ago when its members objected to Micheal Steele being a member. I guess they had to balance the benefits of a well connected republican against opening the doors to their first black member. I don't recall how that drama played out but somehow Elkridge still looks like the dullest 100 acres of golf on the planet. What passes for excitement is when the sprinklers come on.
Well, for starters, almost all of the clubs feature architecturally significant clubhouses, the Maryland Clubhouse at Charles and Eager is one of Baltimore's finest examples of Richardson Romanesque. There is all kinds of history attached those clubs. For example, the aforementioned Maryland Club was founded in 1857 by Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon. The first president of the Elkridge Club was Alexander Brown, of the now defunct Alex Brown and Sons, which was the oldest investment firm in the country. The Elkridge Club does have two African-American members, and have made no moves to disclose their identities to the public, as they do with all their members. There also Jewish members at Elkridge, and they have held several bar and bat mitzvahs there. As for your assessment of the golf courses at Elkridge, you can't successfully pass judgment on them unless you've played. There are certainly far worse golf courses than the one at Elkridge, and it is first golf course in Maryland. The Baltimore Country Club featured the first grass tennis courts below the mason Dixon line. These are not dull places at all, and I don't have to play the role of PR person for them.
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Old February 17th, 2009, 05:44 AM   #8
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Well, for starters, almost all of the clubs feature architecturally significant clubhouses, the Maryland Clubhouse at Charles and Eager is one of Baltimore's finest examples of Richardson Romanesque. There is all kinds of history attached those clubs. For example, the aforementioned Maryland Club was founded in 1857 by Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon. The first president of the Elkridge Club was Alexander Brown, of the now defunct Alex Brown and Sons, which was the oldest investment firm in the country. The Elkridge Club does have two African-American members, and have made no moves to disclose their identities to the public, as they do with all their members. There also Jewish members at Elkridge, and they have held several bar and bat mitzvahs there. As for your assessment of the golf courses at Elkridge, you can't successfully pass judgment on them unless you've played. There are certainly far worse golf courses than the one at Elkridge, and it is first golf course in Maryland. The Baltimore Country Club featured the first grass tennis courts below the mason Dixon line. These are not dull places at all, and I don't have to play the role of PR person for them.
Aside from the obvious importance of a club founded by Napoleon's brother (LOL), this means what to me? I know that rich people like to hang around other rich people. In spite of the fact that I am not rich or famous, certain coincidences in my life gave me a personal and internal view of the lives of a few of the rich and famous old families around here and I really can't see much value to the larger society of clubs that only serve to insulate excessively complacent people from having to mix with the rabble. If anything we would be all better off if somebody broke down those fences.
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Old February 17th, 2009, 07:51 PM   #9
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Aside from the obvious importance of a club founded by Napoleon's brother (LOL), this means what to me? I know that rich people like to hang around other rich people. In spite of the fact that I am not rich or famous, certain coincidences in my life gave me a personal and internal view of the lives of a few of the rich and famous old families around here and I really can't see much value to the larger society of clubs that only serve to insulate excessively complacent people from having to mix with the rabble. If anything we would be all better off if somebody broke down those fences.
I have to agree with you, scando. The clubs are an interesting topic, and many of the clubs themselves as well as their members are central to some of Baltimore's more interesting lore. The point stands, however, that they were founded and survived on an idea that continues to fall more and more out of fashion. If the clubs cease to exist, so be it. They are obsolete, and hopefully so too will be the ideals of inequality upon which they rest. The illustrious halls and extravagant tales that they produced can be preserved as part of Baltimore's history, but today the clubs can no longer sustain such decadence nor is anything that happens within their walls notable in any way. In today's society, they are irrelevant, and if they disappear altogether, let them make way for institutions that provide us something more than mere nostalgia.

kenyon, to answer your earlier question, I do not know of any family members that I have who are/were members of these clubs; although, I would not be surprised if any of my ancestors were members. I imagine that, at least in their earlier years, club members shared the same religion. Is this the case? If so, are most of Baltimore's clubs Catholic or Protestant?
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Old February 17th, 2009, 11:59 PM   #10
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I have to agree with you, scando. The clubs are an interesting topic, and many of the clubs themselves as well as their members are central to some of Baltimore's more interesting lore. The point stands, however, that they were founded and survived on an idea that continues to fall more and more out of fashion. If the clubs cease to exist, so be it. They are obsolete, and hopefully so too will be the ideals of inequality upon which they rest. The illustrious halls and extravagant tales that they produced can be preserved as part of Baltimore's history, but today the clubs can no longer sustain such decadence nor is anything that happens within their walls notable in any way. In today's society, they are irrelevant, and if they disappear altogether, let them make way for institutions that provide us something more than mere nostalgia.

kenyon, to answer your earlier question, I do not know of any family members that I have who are/were members of these clubs; although, I would not be surprised if any of my ancestors were members. I imagine that, at least in their earlier years, club members shared the same religion. Is this the case? If so, are most of Baltimore's clubs Catholic or Protestant?
I would not expect people who have not been exposed firsthand to these institutions to understand, but the reason the clubs continue to live on is the quality of life they afford. The clubs are not, and never really were, dens of debauchery and decadence, but rather a direct reaction to those. The clubs demand suitable dress and conduct, and there is no room for extravagant behavior. You seem to be under the impression that all clubs operate as Elkridge does, excluding people due to their race or religion. This is not the case, L'hirondelle, the oldest private club in Maryland, possesses a diverse host of members, the only real unifying factor being socio-economic status, which is to be expected, since such places are not inexpensive. Michael Jordan belongs, or at least did belong, to the Caves Valley Golf Club, in the very coveted Caves Valley area. There are Asian members of the Gibson Island Club, a club so exclusive it has been known to deny the islands homeowners.

Another thing that seems to be forgotten is the unequaled standard of quality expecte of most clubs. The Baltimore Country Club, the city's premier club, is cosmopolitan as well, and it's East Course in the top 50 golf courses in America. The clubs would be far less attended if they didn't boast excellent facilities.

Historically, the members of Baltimore's Clubs were conservative white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. However, today this generalization can only be made of Elkridge.
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 10:22 PM   #11
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The value of city clubs extends beyond their architecture and antiquities. Typically, the clubs maintain active philanthropic committees and help underwrite a number of different activities such as: boys and girls clubs, grants and awards for local artists, musicians and authors; intramembership fundraising for symphonies, libraries, and community improvements. In Baltimore, a great example is the role private clubs played in building support for the redevelopment of the inner harbor area. To make something like that happen takes a lot of "political" support. As unified community leaders, club members can help draw attention to important projects. I'm afraid that one day, city clubs, Rotary and other private and membership-based civic groups will no longer attract young community leaders. You don't have to be wealthy to participate in these groups. I can assure you that when considered for membership, no one asks your net worth. They want to know if you are of good character and are willing and able to support club activities that, at times, may require sweat equity to help build community resources. Having a nice place for lunch and a game of squash or handball is an added bonus.
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Old June 24th, 2010, 05:23 AM   #12
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It is perfectly understandable why clubs in general would be viewed as snooty in our democratic society. For one, especially among the business clubs, members are often wealthy and politically connected.

Of course, there are many different kinds of clubs. But historically speaking, if you look at the business clubs, they are a literal "Who's Who" of Baltimore. Garrett, Hopkins, Pratt, Mosley, Baldwin...the list goes on and on...were all members of clubs, and they defined the built city as we know it.

While to an outsider such clubs may appear dull or boring, clubs provide a sort of get-away for like-minded individuals. Aside from the qualities or attributes mentioned above, clubs attract highly motivated, influential and restless people seeking to achieve something other than the dull status quo of the outside world.

Clubs are power and money; they are the playgrounds where obtuse ideas are hammered into reality. The networks are priceless.

As far as being elitist: yes they are. They must. When a deal needs to happen, stakeholders will most likely meet and discuss within the private world of a club over lunch, dinner or drinks than at the Cheesecake Factory. The distraction in the public realm alone would kill any deal.

We are worse off without clubs. Their decline (especially here in Baltimore) reflect not only an irreplaceable loss of local financial resources, but more importantly, locally focused leadership-talent.

Today's mayor has a much thinner and much more junior-level rolodex of names to call upon for help than mayors like Preston, Jackson, Broening, or even Schaefer. That is definitely a loss...
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Old June 24th, 2010, 09:32 AM   #13
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kenyon, to answer your earlier question, I do not know of any family members that I have who are/were members of these clubs; although, I would not be surprised if any of my ancestors were members. I imagine that, at least in their earlier years, club members shared the same religion. Is this the case? If so, are most of Baltimore's clubs Catholic or Protestant?

I was reading Not in My Neighborhood an excellent book that chronicles why the Baltimore area is demographically arranged the way it is and I learned that the Maryland Club did not have any Jewish members until 1988 (a year after I was born!!) Then again, Jews also discriminated against other Jews. For example, the Suburban Country Club was a German Jewish club that would not allow any Eastern European Jews, hence the Woodholme Country Club was established.
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Old June 24th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #14
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... For example, the aforementioned Maryland Club was founded in 1857 by Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon. ...
MC Club founder JB was Nappy's nephew. JB's parents were Baltimore beauty Betsy Patterson and Nappy's brother, Jerome.
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