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Guide to the City Club of New York Records
 MS 116

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Catherine Sheehan

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 21, 2023
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Administrative History

The City Club of New York was founded in 1892 as a gentlemen's social and civic club in Manhattan with the purpose of "providing through the facilities of a social club, means of intercourse and co-operation among citizens, officials and organizations interested in the city's welfare." For 50 years they maintained a Club House for members at 55 West 44th Street that included a library, dining room and bar, office space and rooms rented to members and other organizations. At its peak around the 1920s, the club had over 1000 members.

City Club's civic work was for nonpartisan reform of New York government, both at the state and city level. Through the creation of over 70 committees and sub-committees, they lobbied for parks, playgrounds, improved housing conditions, hospitals and healthcare, education reform, and renovations of streets, transit, and the ports of New York. They also pushed for reform of various agencies including the New York Police Department, the courts, and the Parks Department. Their numerous publications, pamphlets, and circulating bulletins detail not just the work of the committees, but City Club's opinion on countless civic and legislative matters.

City Club lobbied in favor of the protection and preservation of historic buildings and parks throughout the city including the Old Assay building façade, Castle Clinton, Central Park, and Washington Square Park. Their position on various redesigns, rezoning, and renovations placed them continuously in contact with Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, most notably in opposition to his proposal to redesign Washington Square Park. While they became well known for opposing many of Moses's plans, they worked in favor of many others and honored Moses numerous times. They allied themselves with several other civic groups including Women's City Club of New York, the National Municipal League, and Citizens' Union.

In the 1940s City Club's purpose and plans shifted after the foreclosure of the Club House and subsequent move to the Hotel Russel in 1943. The social club with a civic purpose pushed forward a primarily civic agenda up until the 1950s when declining membership prompted a discussion of the dissolution of the Club. Dissolution was deemed not an option by younger members and in 1951 City Club underwent reorganization. The influx of younger members and increased membership to the Board and Committees solidified City Club's place as a civic organization.

In 1954 City Club gave up its offices at Hotel Russel and moved into the office of a member of the Board of Trustees. The move to an office space without a dining room or other social areas permanently solidified City Club's place as a solely civic organization. In 1959 City Club Comments, a newsletter edited by I. D. Robbins, began, and was circulated to both members and non-members. The Comments replaced the solely informative City Club Bulletin with political and social commentary written by and for readers of the newsletter. The organization remained a men's club until 1973 when the first female members joined.

City Club suspended its activities in 2003 due to funding, and in 2009 dissolved but retained their corporate charter. In 2013 it resumed its work under the guidance of Michael Gruen, the new president, with a renewed focus on urban development and preservation in New York City.