That Club Life

The Ivy Club facade (Courtesy of Ivy Club)

By Anne Levin

In 1877, a small group of sophomores at the College of New Jersey — soon to be renamed Princeton University — decided to start a club where they could dine together and socialize. Renting rooms in a small brownstone and hiring a couple to cook and serve meals, the friends unwittingly began a tradition that has become a key part of the University experience.

From that first club, called Ivy, 18 more followed. The architecturally distinctive mansions that line Prospect Avenue and a section of Washington Road are the focus of The Princeton Eating Clubs, a lavishly-illustrated, diligently-researched book by Clifford Zink. Published last fall by the Princeton Prospect Foundation, it is full of  historical anecdotes and photographs from the clubs’ archives and libraries.

Zink tells the whole story — the loyalty of members, the admission of women, and the focus on architectural excellence. “Today, the eating clubs compose a unique cluster of impressive college clubhouses unmatched anywhere,” he writes. “They embody the social and architectural aspirations of their undergraduate and alumni builders, and the ensuing spirited tradition of cooperation and stewardship by their successors has enured to the great benefit of Princeton and the community at large.”

Colonial Club (Photo by Clifford Zink)

Cottage Club Library (Courtesy of the Cottage Club)