Club History

Origin of Eating Clubs

During the 18th century there was a very rigid academic curriculum and Spartan living conditions. There was no sewer or water supply in town or on campus. The college barely reached Washington Road. Prospect Avenue didn’t exist until 1880. In the early 19th century all meals were served at the college.

1855A fire at Nassau Hall caused the college to discontinue meal service forcing students to make their own arrangements for dining at boarding houses, Dohm’s Tavern and University Hotel. These meals (bread, butter and milk) were not up to the standard that the increasing number of affluent students were accustomed to. This prompted students to search out rooming houses and pay locals to provide meals.
1879The Ivy Club was formed.
1886The the second permanent eating club was organized. They called themselves, "The Seven Wise Men of Grease," and rented a house known as The University Cottage on University Place and arranged for their own catering.
1889The University Cottage Club was incorporated.
1891PU tried to establish a common eating hall but it was not embraced by the students because of the substandard offerings.
1892Members decided that they required a larger space and they felt it was best to build their own house. They chose the newly formed Prospect Street, across from the Ivy Club. A wood framed, shingle style Victorian house was built on this site and served them well for a decade until there was a need for more space.
1896The College of New Jersey was renamed Princeton University.
1903Cottage Club commissioned world renowned architect, Charles Follen McKim to design a larger clubhouse. McKim had designed the University Club in NY, which they were all familiar with, in addition to several other noteworthy, Gilded Age clubs – Century, Metropolitan and Union League in Philly, and the Newport Casino in Newport RI.

A December 12, 1903, Board of Governors report states, "the sketches here within have the official sanction of Woodrow Wilson, the President of the University." McKim chose to use Georgian Revival style for the building. This was the FIRST example in Princeton. It has continued to be a style used by Princetonians into the 20th century.

Cottage wanted to a stylistic distinction between their new club and Ivy, so McKim gave it a monumental façade, but set it back 65 feet creating an area where one leaves the public realm before entering the building. At the threshold, he placed a lantern half in and half out of the fanlight to signify the continuity between exterior and interior. Oval windows and railing details were taken from the first Cottage building. It also included white, marble quoining, strong stone base and detailed brackets at the eaves.

The large oak trees in the front yard were planted approximately 50 years ago by one of the sections.