Alumni Clubhouses in New York City

Published January 2024

One perk of being a student or alumnus of a top university or graduate school is the opportunity of joining a club. In NYC in particular, there are several clubhouse options for alumni. These club memberships offer a home away from home to meet others, enjoy beautiful surroundings, and attend special events.

Harvard Club of New York

Located at 35 West 44th Street in Manhattan, HCNY was founded in 1865 by alumni. However, a clubhouse did not exist until the 1880s. They leased a residence on 22nd Street in 1887. With several hundred members in the 1890s, they decided to purchase land on West 44th Street to build a permanent home. Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White designed the building.

It was not until 1905 that the Club added the stunning Harvard Hall, a three story space that reminds me of the interior of Edinburgh Castle, in their first addition to the building – which was also designed by McKim. Another addition in 1915 followed with the Main Dining Room; although McKim passed away in 1909, his firm McKim, Mead & White did manage this addition as well. Many decades passed until the third addition in 2003 done by Max Bond of Davis, Brody and Bond. A rooftop bar debuted in 2014; the building is currently nine stories tall.

Those eligible to join include those holding a degree (including honorary ones) from Harvard or Radcliffe; current or former faculty, fellows, officers, and Board and Committee members; and formerly enrolled full-time students in Harvard degree-granting programs for at least a year.  There is an initiation fee after an application and interview; annual fees are mainly dependent on geographic location and how far you live from the Club; there is a separate and reduced fee for current faculty members. Current Harvard students also can apply for a special summer membership.

Amenities for members include several dining areas, business center, library, overnight rooms, two bars, a gym with squash courts, and access to about 35 reciprocal clubs. HCNY hosts a wide variety of events including lectures, parties, and networking events. Some memorable events have included the Hudson Valley wine and food tasting, Robbie Burns night, champagne brunches, and a New Year’s Eve party.

In contrast with other alumni clubhouses in New York, Harvard does not have a list of affiliated colleges or universities whose alumni are allowed to become members and has a rather curated list of reciprocal clubs in which members can also visit.

Yale Club of New York

Founded in 1897, it was first located at 17 Madison Square and at 30 West 44th Street. The current building is from 1915 and located very close to Grand Central Station at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue; it was designed by Yale graduate James Gamble Rogers. The building has 22 floors and is the largest clubhouse for any college in the world.

It is open to all Yale University undergraduates over the age of 21 and current full-time graduate students, as well as alumni and faculty. In addition, graduates of University of Virginia, Dartmouth, and members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity are eligible to join through their organizations.

Perks include the Main bar and the Roof Dining Room and Terrace, Grill Room, Tap Room and Bulldog Bar, swimming pool, squash courts, guest rooms, and access to over 100 reciprocal clubs around the world.

With over 300 member events per year, they offer guests lectures, tours, parties, and holiday gatherings. I recall many years ago attending a Halloween party in this stunning venue.

Penn Club of New York

Located at 30 West 44th Street which is steps away from the Harvard Club, the building is 13 stories tall. Back in 1886, a group of alumni in New York formed this organization.

Penn Club has had many different residences during its tenure. In 1900 they opened in four rooms at the Royalton Hotel, on the same block as today’s clubhouse. From 1905-1910, they were located at the Hotel Stanley on 47th Street. In 1910, they gave up space to focus on their annual banquet. It was not until 1922 when they leased two townhouses on 50th Street for twenty years; however, in 1935 the property was sold during the Great Depression.

The Club moved several times more in the 1930s, sharing space with Cornell Club on 38th Street, then moving to 36th Street, and again to 38th Street. They moved to 56th Street in 1939 and stayed until 1961.

In 1964, they were at the Biltmore Hotel at 45th and Madison for two years. For several decades afterwards, they had members join the Princeton Club, which later defaulted on its mortgage in 2021 and closed down. However, Penn Club acquired its own clubhouse in 1989 and opened its doors in 1994.

Penn Club is open to graduates of Penn or alumni who attended for at least one year; current full-time students; immediate family of Penn alumni (including parents, siblings, spouse, children, grandparents, etc.), full-time staff and faculty of Penn, full-time staff of University of Pennsylvania Health System; alumni of Wharton programs; members of Penn boards and committees; graduate of affiliate schools in good standing with Penn Club (see more below); and past club members whose membership was in good standing when they left the Club.

Penn Club has a huge number of affiliated alumni clubs of other schools, including Columbia, University of Chicago, Emory, Vanderbilt, Villanova, NYU, Williams, Fordham, and Lehigh.

They also have special summer member category for current students who are 21 and over, as well as a Palestra Fitness Center summer membership for current full-time students under the age of 21.

Amenities include dining rooms, guest rooms, business center, fitness center, and a library. Members can stay at over 150 reciprocal clubs around the world. Events include networking, book clubs, walking tours, business events. I have personally attended a business event in this space.

Cornell Club of New York

Located at 6 East 44th Street on the same block as Harvard and Penn Clubs, the 14-story building has been the residence of the Club since 1989. Founded 100 years prior in 1889 by alumni, it previously resided in rooms at the Royalton Hotel on West 44th Street, then moved to 65 Park Avenue, Madison Avenue at 38th Street, Hotel Barclay at 48th Street, 50th Street and Third Avenue, the Women’s National Headquarters, and NYU’s Town Hall facility. In the 1980s, an anonymous Cornell graduate provided funds for the current building.

Membership is open to Cornell alumni, family members of Cornell alumni, Cornell students 21 or older, alumni or faculty/staff of affiliate schools, Cornell faculty/staff, and business associates sponsored by current members and eCornell certificate holders.

Cornell has many affiliated universities that are open to join, including Brown, Duke, Stanford, Notre Dame, Tulane, Colgate, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Wake Forest, and St. Lawrence University.

Amenities include work areas, dining rooms, guest rooms, fitness center, meeting rooms, and 160 reciprocal private clubs. Events on their calendar include young alumni brunch, lobster night, lectures on academic topics, and special tours. This is the one alumni clubhouse in New York City I have not been to yet, but perhaps that could change!

Conclusion

One of the perks of attending particular colleges or graduate schools is the incredible network. If you live or often travel to NYC, one of these clubs may be beneficial for you in having a getaway to focus on business, meet other people, and enjoy special programming. I often use Harvard Club of New York to meet with clients, bring guests to events, and have a place to relax when I am in the city. It may be worth your while to join one of these clubs or make more friends in order to enjoy the amenities of these clubhouses in New York City!

harvard club of new york

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