In 1884, a group of freshman, members of the Class of 1888 chose to eat in a private room on the second floor of Dohm’s Restaurant on Nassau Street across from the campus. In time, this group named themselves "The Seven Wise Men of Grease,” a reflection of the meals they endured.
In their sophomore year the group moved up Nassau Street to a hotel on the corner of Railroad Avenue (now University Place) known as The University Hotel. From reports, no improvement of food was encountered and the group began to look for a more suitable place to eat. In September of their junior year they found a small house immediately south of The University Hotel on Railroad Avenue (where Hamilton Hall now stands) owned by the college and known as The University Cottage. A couple was hired to cook and serve their meals. The group agreed on the name "The University Cottage Club of Princeton” popularly known today as "Cottage."
As time passed, the cottage that gave the Club its name and which seemed so commodious to its founding members, proved to be inadequate as the Sections grew. In 1890, a lot on Prospect Street (upon which today’s clubhouse stands) was purchased and a shingled Victorian clubhouse was built in 1892. The enrollment continued to grow and this structure was moved to Library Place when plans were made for a larger building. The current two and a half story Georgian Revival clubhouse was designed by Charles Follem McKim of the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White in 1903 and built in 1906.
The library on the second floor is modeled on the fourteenth century library in Merton College, Oxford University. Many rooms are paneled in English oak, with carved ceilings and cornices. Great marble fireplaces grace several areas with mottoes over the mantels. In the Dining Room, one such carving reads "Ubi Amici Ibidem Sunt Opes” ("Where there are friends there are riches”) which has become over the years a motto of the Club. Priding itself on lifelong friendships and camaraderie, the Club continues to attract some of the finest that Princeton has to offer.
Several noteworthy individuals have been members, including: Edgar Palmer ‘03, Breckenridge Long ’03, John Foster Dulles ’08, Dean Mathey ’12, James Forrestal ’15, F.Scott Fitzgerald ’17, (he began his novel "This Side of Paradise” in the UCC library), Livingston T. Merchant ’26, Henry R. Labouisse ’26, Leonard K. Firestone ’33, Jose Ferrer ’35, John N. Irwin ’37, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach ’43, Gov. Brendan T. Byrne ’49, Richard W. Kazmaier, Jr. ’52, Sen. Christopher S. Bond ’60, Sen. William W. Bradley ’65, Robert Mueller '66, Sen. William Frist ’74 and Pulitzer Prize winners John McPhee ’53 and A. Scott Berg ’71. Honorary members include: Grover Cleveland, Admiral George Dewey and Woodrow Wilson. Over the years fifteen members have been Rhodes Scholars.
Women were admitted in 1986.Today, as in the past, the Club’s purpose is not only to be a gathering place for meals and friendship, but also a sanctuary to study, relax and enhance the quality of life for its current members, alumni and their guests.
On September 14, 1999 the Club was entered onto the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. On November 15, 1999 it was added to the National Historic Register of Historic Places based on the architectural structure of the building, high degree of historic integrity, and significant cultural contributions to the community. These recognitions will help to preserve and protect this historic treasure for future generations.