The Century Association is a private club in New York City. It evolved out of an earlier organization – the Sketch Club, founded in 1829 by editor and poet William Cullen Bryant and his friends – and was established in 1847 by Bryant and others as a club to promote interest in the fine arts and literature which was open to "Artists, Literary Men, Scientists, Physicians, Officers of the Army and Navy, members of the Bench and Bar, Engineers, Clergymen, Representatives of the Press, Merchants and men of leisure." It was originally intended to have a limited membership of 100 men. Its early members included Bryant; painters Asher Durand, Winslow Homer, Jervis McEntee, and John Frederick Kensett; sculptor Paul Manship; architect Stanford White; judge Charles Patrick Daly; author Lewis Gaylord Clark; and architect Calvert Vaux, who, along with Frederick Law Olmsted, was the co-creator of Central Park. However, by the middle 1850s, the membership primarily consisted of merchants, businessmen, lawyers and doctors.
|Official name: Century Association Clubhouse|
|Designated||July 15, 1982|
|Location||7 West 43rd St, Manhattan, New York City|
|Architect||McKim, Mead & White|
|Architectural style||Italian Renaissance Revival|
|Official name: Century Association Clubhouse|
|Designated||January 11, 1967|
|Official name: Former Century Association Building|
|Designated||January 5, 1993|
|Location||111 East 15th St, Manhattan, New York City|
|Built||1847, 1857, 1867, 1869, 1878|
|Architects||Originally Joseph C. Wells|
Later Charles Gambrill and
H. H. Richardson
The Century possesses a notable art collection, including important works by Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty, and other Hudson River School painters. It is also an important venue for the exhibition of contemporary art created by its members.
The Century Association resulted from the merger of two earlier private clubs for men "of similar social standing or shared interests." The Sketch Club had focused on literature and the arts, while the Column Club had been a Columbia University alumni organization. The initial invitation for the combined club was sent to one hundred men, which became the basis for the name "The Century", later slightly altered to the Century Association.
The club rented a variety of temporary locations in Manhattan, gravitating to the area around Union Square and Madison Square. Among these locations were over Del Vecchio's picture store at 495 Broadway, 435 Broome Street, over a millinery shop at 575 Broadway, and 24 Clinton Place (later redesignated 46 East 8th Street). Rapid growth in membership to 250 led the club to incorporate and purchase a permanent location in 1857.
15th Street clubhouse
The club's first permanent headquarters was an existing two-and-one-half-story residence at 42 East 15th Street, later redesignated 109-111, between Union Square East and Irving Place. Built in about 1847 and purchased by the Century Association in 1857 for $24,000, the dwelling was extensively remodeled four times during its 34 years as a clubhouse. The first time was immediately upon purchase under the direction of New York architect Joseph C. Wells, a Centurion. Expanded at a cost of $11,000, the renovated building was more than twice the size of the original house and styled like an Italian palazzo with facing of ashlar or possibly stucco treated to resemble ashlar masonry.
Continuing its growth in both membership and programs during and after the Civil War, the Century Association required larger facilities. Although the club's members considered moving, financial constraints led them in 1867 to ask member and architect Charles D. Gambrill (1832–1880) to enlarge their existing structure. Gambrill's plans called for internal alterations, an expansion to the rear to accommodate an art gallery on the second floor and a billiard room on the main floor, a mansard roof, and a new unified, brick exterior trimmed with Lockport limestone. The rear extension was promptly completed, but for reasons no longer understood the rest of work was delayed until 1869.
By the time construction began again, Gambrill had replaced his previous partner, George B. Post, with noted young architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886), who had recently returned from his architectural training in France and joined the Century Association. It appears that Richardson helped change Gambrill's initial plans, making this one of his early works, before he became one of the most influential architects in the United States (Jeffrey Karl Ochsner calls it Richardson's eighth commission). The 1869 remodeling cost $21,000, and included an upwards expansion into a mansard-covered third floor. Completely eliminating the prior palazzo feel, it featured a unified neo-Grec style. Although Richardson would later develop a highly personal Romanesque style, his training at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris equipped him to design in neo-Grec with its abstracted classical features that worked well in modern materials such as the brick employed here. In 1878, Gambrill and Richardson dissolved their partnership, and in the same year Richardson made yet further modifications to the clubhouse.
The building is the oldest surviving clubhouse in Manhattan, and has been a New York City landmark since 1993. The exterior was restored and the interior converted in 1996–97 by Beyer Blinder Belle, and in recent years it has been the Century Center for the Performing Arts, which had a 248-seat theatre, a ballroom and a studio. As of 2006 it is the New York production facility for Trinity Broadcasting Network, a religious television company.
43rd Street clubhouse
In 1891, The Century Association left 15th Street for its current location, an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo at 7 West 43rd Street. At the time of the move the club had about 800 members. McKim, Mead & White was retained; their design established a preferred style for private clubhouse buildings all over the United States in the following decades. The structure was designated a New York City Landmark in 1967, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982. The clubhouse was restored by the architect Jan Hird Pokorny in 1992.
Repudiation of the Garrick Club
In late 2010 members of the Century Association – which had only begun admitting female members in 1989, and then by court order – were embroiled in a hotly contested internal debate, that involved an "unusual vote of the entire membership". At issue was whether it "should sever ties with a prestigious, all-male club in London, called the Garrick Club, that allows women to enter only in the company of men." As of March 1, 2011 the reciprocity agreement was slated to end. London's Daily Telegraph interviewed a Garrick Club member who said he "would not be mourning the loss of his colonial cousins – or access to their facilities." On the other side, a male Century Association member told the New York Observer that giving up infrequent visits to the Garrick Club "versus condoning the discrimination of women" seemed like "a pretty easy trade-off".
- List of American gentlemen's clubs
- The Century Company, and The Century Magazine, bought by Roswell Smith in 1881 and renamed by him after the Century Association
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Manhattan from 14th to 59th Streets
- List of New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan from 14th to 59th Streets
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009), Postal, Matthew A. (ed.), Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, pp.85, 103
- Breiner, David (January 5, 1993). "(Former) Century Association Building" (PDF). New York: New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. pp. 2–3.
- Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl (1982). H.H. Richardson: Complete Architectural Works. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-262-65015-1.
- Mooney, James E. "Century Association" in Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995), The Encyclopedia of New York City, New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 0300055366, p.200
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999), Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-195-11634-8, p.713
- Fitch, Charles E (1916). Encyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states. Boston: American historical society. OCLC 3548810.
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999), Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-195-11634-8, p.793
- Brozan, Nadine. "Century Club Tradition Nears Its End". The New York Times (November 27, 1988)
- Lee, Felicia R. "121 Years of Men Only Ends at Club". The New York Times (July 28, 1989)
- Breiner, David (January 5, 1993). "(Former) Century Association Building" (PDF). New York: New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. p. 2.
- Breiner, David (January 5, 1993). "(Former) Century Association Building" (PDF). New York: New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. pp. 3–4.
- White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000), AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.), New York: Three Rivers Press, ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5
- World's largest religious TV network buys performing arts center at the Cushman & Wakefield website (August 6, 2006)
- Barbaro, Michael (February 9, 2011). "At Elite Club, Debate Over More Exclusive One". The New York Times.
- Swaine, Jon (10 February 2011). "New York's Century Association severs ties with London's Garrick Club". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Freeman, Nate (March 2, 2011). "Clash of the Centurions: Gender Spat Splits a Venerable Redoubt". New York Observer. Archived from the original on April 26, 2011.
- Century Association. The Century, 1847–1946. (1947)
- Duffy, James (ed.) The Century at 150: Excerpts from the Archives. (1997)
- Gourlie, John Hamilton. The Origin and History of the Century. (1856)
- Mayor, A. Hyatt & Davis, Mark. American Art at the Century. (1977)
- Nathan, Frederic S. Centurions In Public Service. (2010)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Century Association.|
- Official website
- Century Association Archives Foundation (includes a finding aid to the collection, which is accessible to qualified researchers)
- Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the Turn of the 20th Century. A New York Art Resources Consortium project. Exhibition catalogs of the Century Association.