The University Club of Cincinnati was founded in 1879, as a result of a generalized call through the daily newspapers for persons interested in forming a club to be composed of “college men”, a movement seen in many great American cities. The Club’s Constitution stated the club’s purpose “to cultivate a spirit of fraternity among college men, and to foster higher education by uniting persons who appreciate its importance from realizing a sense of its benefits, as well as to provide for our social enjoyment…”
The original University Club lasted from 1879 until 1896, likely closing for financial reasons following a depression. In 1905, the local alumni of Harvard, Yale and Princeton colleges held a joint outing to re-establish a University Club. The Club formally opened April 27, 1907, with the Secretary of War William Howard Taft (a former member of the old University Club) presiding. The Club’s first president was Edward H. Ernst (Princeton, 1882), whose efforts, leadership, and personality set the culture of hospitality and congeniality.
From January 30, 1907 the Board of Managers decided that the William Wallace Seely house at 401 E 4th Street would be the best location. The Club House was acquired through the generosity of Charles Phelps Taft, the President of the old University Club and President of the revived Club from 1913 to 1929. The present footprint of the Club is the expanded houses of Snowden Smith and the Seely residence, which shared a party wall.
Membership peaked in the 1920s, dipped then sustained high levels post WWII through the 1970s, and late 80s, to an all-time high of 740 in 1991. Our current membership is capped at 650. The Club House’s alteration and renovation to satisfy the Club’s changing needs continues. The Club House reflects the growing interests and requirements of the Club members:
· The fourth floor squash courts and locker rooms were expanded in 1974 and 1989. The locker room used to be two sleeping rooms; one of which was the Club Manager’s residence.
· The entire third floor used to be sleeping rooms; some served as permanent residences for Club members. The Taft Room and Ladies locker room now grace the third floor.
· The 1st floor dining room used to hold a billiards table and a separate area just for card games (The “Vulture” room)
· The current offices of the Club used to be a bowling alley, the pub was updated to be a brighter casual space.
· The Library and the Governor’s Room on the second floor used to be designated for Ladies’ use until the Club fully opened to both sexes in the 1960’s. As you walk down the hallway to the 1st floor dining room, you can see a portrait of Janet Lerner, who was our first female member and a Board member for many years.
· In 2013, the Broadway Plaza was opened as a major addition, giving the UClub a unique downtown outdoor dining and event space in the shadow of our elegant Verdin Bell clock.