Now over a century old, the Columbia University Club dates back to 1901 when a group of two hundred young graduates met at Sherry’s Restaurant to form a club. The Club grew quickly and by 1910 had more than one thousand members and a clubhouse at the corner of Irving Place and Gramercy Park South. The Gramercy Park clubhouse was a social center for many young graduates and many alumni events took place there in the early years of the twentieth century. Columbia College Dean J. Howard Van Amringe ’60 was an important force in organizing the Club and served as its first president.
By 1915, the Columbia University Club had outgrown its quarters on Gramercy Park and was looking for a larger clubhouse in Midtown, where many other clubs were settling. The Club purchased the old Renaissance Hotel at 4 West 43rd Street and made extensive renovations to transform it into a fine clubhouse.
For many years, the clubhouse at 4 West 43rd Street was the center of Columbia alumni activities in New York. During the 1920s, Club members were active squash players and won many championships, including the 1927 National Class A Squash Tennis Championship. By the end of the 1920s, the Club’s membership had reached almost three thousand.
The organizers of the Columbia University Club intended that it would be a source of support for the University, in addition to its role as a social center for alumni. Over the years, the Club has carried out this mission in many ways, including serving as an advocate for athletics and organizing the Columbia University Club scholarships. These scholarships, organized in 1926, have sent several hundred students to Columbia, including Jack Kerouac, the beat poet.
The Columbia University Club began to struggle in the 1960s, an era of diminished alumni involvement. By 1973, the Club closed the clubhouse doors at 4 West 43rd Street.
Interest in a Columbia alumni club in New York City did not altogether disappear and began to increase in the 1980s. During this time, the Club was reconstituted and found a home at the National Women’s Republican Club, the Williams Club and the Princeton Club. In February 2017, the Columbia University Club proudly announced a new affiliation with The Penn Club of New York.
The Columbia University Club of New York continues to evolve to meet modern needs while holding true to the idea that a Columbia social center is of immeasurable value to Columbians and their families. Membership has expanded beyond the all-time highs of the 1920s. Today, over three thousand students, alumni and their families enjoy the social, cultural, and intellectual enrichment provided by the Columbia University Club.