The Calumet Club of New York and Henry O. Tallmadge

The Calumet Club of New York was organized in 1879 and incorporated on October 21, 1890. The club was located in various buildings in New York City. Its first clubhouse was located at 21 East 17th Street in 1880. In 1881 the club moved to 70 West 35th Street and two years later the club moved to 3 West 30th Street. In 1887 the club moved to 267 Fifth Avenue at 29th Street where it would remain for the next twenty-five years.  The name Calumet is derived from the calumet, a tobacco pipe used by the American Indians to ratify their treaties of peace.

The club was organized to “acquire and maintain real estate and a building to be used as a clubhouse and for the purposes of recreation, to maintain rooms and a restaurant for the use of members and their guests and to establish a library.”

The Calumet Club house on 29th and Fifth Avenue, Source: Sepiatown.com

The club had four categories of membership: 1. Resident members, 2. Non-resident members, 3. Subscribing, 4. Temporary and 5. Life members. Resident members were those who lived within 50 miles of New York’s City Hall. Non-resident members were those outside the 50 mile radius. Subscribing members were defined as “strangers” who did not live or operate a business within 250 miles of City Hall.

The original incorporators of the Calumet Club were:

  • J. Lawrence Aspinwall
  • William Viall Chapin
  • Charles D. Dickey, Jr.
  • William T. Eldridge
  • Albert Gallup
  • Charles R. Henderson
  • Samuel H. Hoppin
  • E. De P. Livingston
  • A. Lanfear Lorrie
  • George B. Parsons
  • Frank Roosevelt
  • Edmund C. Stanton
  • Paul Tuckerman
  • William Turnbull, Jr.
  • A. Murray Young

Probably the most famous thing to happen at the Calumet Club was that organized golf in the U.S. began there. As described by Charles Blair Macdonald in Scotland’s Gift, his book of 1927, “H.O. Tallmadge gave a dinner at the Calumet Club on the 22nd of December, 1894, and each of the above clubs was represented by two members. ” The clubs were The St. Andrews Golf Club, of Yonkers-on-Hudson, The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, The Country Club of Brookline, The Newport Golf Club and the Chicago Golf Club. It was at the Calumet Club that the members of the five clubs adopted and signed an agreement to form the Amateur Golf Association of the United States or what is today known as the United States Golf Association (U.S.G.A.).

The original U.S.G.A. constitution signed by Tallmadge

Henry Overing Tallmadge (1863-1948) would serve as the first secretary of the U.S.G.A. He was also a member of the Union Club, The St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers, NY, The Turf and Field Clubs, the Sons of the Revolution and the St. Nicholas Society.  Membership in the St. Nicholas society is by invitation only and limited to those men who can demonstrate descent from a resident of New York State before 1785.

Tallmadge was one of the founders of the St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers in 1888 and as Herbert Warren Wind details in The Story of American Golf  in 1947 he was a good pick for the first secretary of the U.S.G.A. because he was “hard-working with the valuable gift of knowing how to handle the rambunctious Macdonald.” He also had a wicked mustache and knew how to dress.

H.O. Tallmadge as pictured in The Story of American Golf

As H.B. Martin outlines in his Fifty Years of American Golf in 1936, Tallmadge was also instrumental in bringing Willie Park, Jr. to this country, a fact for which we will be forever grateful since he was the principal designer of Maidstone.

An article in the New York Times on December 8, 1896 states that, “For some time past a rumor has been current in the New York clubs that the well-known Calumet Club might either consolidate with some other club or wind up its affairs.” It seems like they fell on tough economic times right after their founding, “It is the direct result of the recent period of business depression and of an oversupply of clubs in New York City.” The club was nicknamed The “Junior Union Club” because, “The original purpose was to supply club facilities and comforts to young men of good position and name in New York, at lower initiation fee and dues than the Union, Knickerbocker, and other clubs of their stamp, and also to provide club facilities for the young men then on the long waiting list at the Union Club.”

Their troubles began when The Metropolitan Club was formed in 1891 and started drawing away members. The Times article mentions that the club had a lease on its building until 1900 and “is noted for its large and beautiful poolroom, its handsome parlors and dining room and the excellence of its service and cuisine.” In 1896 the club considered merging with the Racquet Club because of its difficulties but the members of the latter club rejected the merger idea.

Jay Shockley of the New York Landmarks Preservation Committee notes that “By the end of the 19th century New York had over one hundred men’s clubs (second only to London), many catering particularly to young bachelors and providing alternative options for living, dining and drinking.”

In 1903, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the movement of the club to the new clubhouse on Fifth Avenue and describes it as having, “large and comfortable windows where the members may stand or sit and view the passing show. The Calumet is a club of young men of fashion. They are most of them the younger sons of well known families, and thought they appeared particularly juvenile when they first began to attract attention, five or six years ago when they began to boom their club, they are now most of them mature men of the world.”

Tallmadge certainly fits the description of being from a well known family. His father George Clinton Tallmadge served in the 7th Regiment for New York during the Civil War. His great grandfather Matthias B. Tallmadge was a federal judge appointed by Thomas Jefferson. His great grandmother Elizabeth Clinton, was the daughter of New York’s first  Governor and Vice President of the United States George Clinton. In Tallmadge’s obituary in the New York Times he is described as having lived for a long time at the Plaza Hotel where he and his wife entertained “on a large scale.” There are no references to his occupation in any of the papers of the time, although he and Mrs. Tallmadge are listed in the society papers often in New York and Bar Harbor, Maine.

The club in fact remained at the Fifth Avenue and 29th Street location until 1914 at which time it moved to 12 West 56th Street, where it would remain for its final 21 years of existence. The New York Times noted the closing of the club in 1935. Their club building was sold in a foreclosure on October 3, 1935 and the club had disbanded on May 31st of the same year. Most of the remaining members joined the Metropolitan Club but a small group organized another club called Calumet Associates which met at the Hotel Delmonico on 502 Park Avenue. Some of the possessions of the club were moved to the new headquarters of the Calumet Associates and other items were dispersed among old members. The Government of Argentina now occupies the Calumet townhouse on 56th Street as its New York consulate and it has landmark designation. The clubhouse at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue where the U.S.G.A. was formed is no longer in existence.

The Calumet Club’s final location on West 56th Street, Source: NY Times

The club was originally populated with a lot of publishers and “exponents of the purely intellectual”  as well as financiers and there was always a natural tension between these members and the “purely money-bag portions of society.”

Thus, the Calumet Club was in existence for a mere 56 years, less than the span of an average lifetime during the period.  A copy of the club book from 1906 reveals  some interesting house rules. There was no smoking permitted in the dining rooms until after 8:30pm and “no round or banking game shall be played in the club-house or on the premises.” The club listed more than 300 members at the time.

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