There are a lot of different types of people in New York City. Spread across various social, economic, racial, and religious makeups, New York embraces a dizzying variety of groups of people. But there’s one socio-economic group that has always and will always maintain a strong presence in New York: the one percent.
The old-monied New Yorkers written about in literature ranging from the novels of Edith Wharton to Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire Of The Vanities, will always hold a large place in the social consciousness of the city. And social clubs littered throughout Manhattan, some that have initiation fees large enough to feed families of 10, uphold this traditional vanguard. But, as Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Families are always rising and falling in America.” As such, numerous social clubs have sprouted up around the city in more recent times celebrating those with newly found success, where one’s last name is less important than who you know and what you’ve done. Nevertheless, being wealthy in New York is as great as being wealthy is anywhere, and no matter how you got your money there is usually a social club for you. Here’s a rundown of some of Manhattan’s most exclusive social clubs—new and old.
66 E. 55th St, New York, NY
Established in 2005, the CORE: Club’s member list is not just one percenters, it’s the .1 percenters, according to a lengthy piece published in the New York Times in 2011. It’s safe to assume that the mega rich that frequent CORE: Club aren’t exactly phased by that seemingly pretty low $50,000 initiation fee, but you have to be invited first. The Times noted that members are more unashamedly over-the-top in their displays of wealth than older clubs like Century, and that there is no enforced dress code, nor are members asked to set aside their electronic devices. In fact, the place often resembles a trading room, with billion dollar deals being done in plain sight. If all of this excess gives you a certain impression, that impression is right. CORE: Club is more for the nouveau riche, or people who acquired their wealth within their own generation. And when working that hard and achieving that much success, can you blame someone for being showy with it? What makes it great however is that while older membership clubs seek to uphold the vanguard of wealth and power in New York, CORE: Club embraces a much more diverse membership of people from various creative fields. But still wildly wealthy and successful people from those creative fields. CORE: Club certainly doesn’t discriminate, and members have included everyone from Bill Clinton to gregarious film executive Harvey Weinstein.
29-35 9th Ave, New York, NY
Memberships vary from $1,000 to $2,400
Soho House was started in 1995 in London in, you guessed it, the Soho neighborhood. Over the years, the Soho House picked up 11 more locations eventually landing here in NYC in the Meatpacking District. Soho House is geared towards creative types and holds a slight ageist bias. Membership for people under 27 is $1,000 a year and for those older it is $2,400 a year. But like most social clubs, being able to afford the fee doesn’t guarantee access. It’s all about who you know, and how cool those people that you know think you are, and even the wealthiest applicants can get stuck on a seemingly never-ending waiting list. Also worth noting is that Soho house is often a favorite spot for mega-stars like Robert Deniro, Nicole Kidman, and Uma Thurman. The original Soho House in London counted among its first members the then-biggest English film star Hugh Grant and this sort-of famous guy who has made a couple of good records named DAVID BOWIE.
The Harvard Club
27 W. 44th St, New York, NY
Membership fees vary from $108 to $1,800
New York City has the highest concentration of Harvard graduates in the United States. No surprise there of course, considering the high concentration of mega-companies found within Manhattan. As such, the Harvard Club was founded in 1865 by a small group of alumni looking to keep the Cambridge camaraderie alive in the Big Apple. The Harvard Club is open to application by any alumni of the university, and memberships are dolled out according to the number of years a member has been graduated. The youngest members get some leeway, owing only $360 a year, where as members 10 years out of school are expected to have achieved more success and as such pay the full $1,800 a year. Memberships also take into account where you, as New York residents pay more than those that live out of state, and Harvard faculty members pay the least in dues. Harvard men and women like working with other Harvard men and women, and just by being a graduate of the school one carries a bit of social influence. Therefore, the Harvard Club is networking ground zero for Harvard alumni.
4 E. 60th St, New York, NY
Membership dues not available to the public
Mayor Bloomberg famously resigned his membership to Harmonie Club because they resisted diversity. That was in 2001, and astonishingly, that resignation didn’t seem to have any effect on the club’s membership standards as here we are in 2014 and the club’s 1,000 members are still overwhelmingly Jewish. Founded in 1852 it was originally a dining club for New Yorkers of German Descent. It relocated in 1905, and its supremely rich members (club was contacted by phone and they refused to make membership dues known to the public) are given some of the most luxurious club membership benefits in the city. You can have a four-man game of BBall with your billionaire buddies, have a meal at the Grill Room, or take a dip at the pool. You can also get married here, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Parlor New York
286 Spring St, New York
In 2009, the Parlor Club sent out invitations to proposed members stating, “The club is not for everyone: we seek members who are intelligent, professionally ambitious, and never boring – whether in style or in conversation.” The club opened a year late but finally opened its doors in March of 2011. Parlor Club seeks out the hippest of the hip members. However, the club’s guest policy breeds a rare heir of inclusivity, and all of its members on various nights are welcome to bring up to three (previously deemed unworthy) guests.
2 E. 62nd St, New York
Membership dues unavailable to the public
And here’s one for the old money, folks. The Knickerbocker Club is so exclusive that it only has one rule concerning giving out information about the club, and that is to never give any information out about the club ever. That’s an actual policy. What is known about the Knickerbocker Club is its history. The club was formed by disillusioned members of the Union Club of the City of New York that had been expressing their concerns that that club’s admission standards had become too lenient. So yes, we are talking real old money here, about as old as money gets in the New World.
The Century Association
7. W 43 St, New York, NY
Mark Twain once referred to this club as, “The most unspeakably respectable club in New York,” and that sort of classy pristine persists today. Founded in 1847, the club for 140 years was for men only, but took a turn for the progressive in 1988 when they started allowing women into the club. Aside from that, the club also serves as a pretty great art history installation, and many creative types especially from media, literary, and advertising worlds flock to it. Famous members have included Mayor Bloomberg, Henry Kissinger, Tina Brown, and Brooke Astor.
University Club of New York
1 W. 54 St, New York, NY
Membership dues not available to the public
When asked via telephone if membership dues to the University Club of New York were made available to the public, a fellow working the club’s desk simply responded, “No, sir.” And indeed this old-money vanguard is also another club that has scarce information available to the public, but Thrillist speculated that a join fee stands at at least $5,000. In any case, the club was formed in 1861 mainly by graduates of Yale and if one is let into this den of royalty than they are treated to the most high-class of benefits. Designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, the building is legendary as one of New York’s premiere architectural landmarks. The club is stacked with things wealthy-types ostensibly enjoy like squash courts, swimming pools, and a wine cellar.