The pandemic has obviously complicated Manhattan lifestyle, affecting retail stores, restaurants, saloons and obviously contributing to the current demise of the NYC Princeton Club.
The Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 29th, headlined, “The Princeton Club of New York Closes Indefinitely as Bank Declares Default: Members were told they continue to have access to reciprocal clubs including the Penn Club, Cornell Club, and the National Arts Club, and leaders are looking for more reciprocal partners.”
The neighborhood remains home away from home for Ivy League clubs, still flying pennants of Penn, Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard. Across from Grand Central Station the Yale Club stands tall including Dartmouth on their roster along with University of Virginia and the DKE fraternity. J. Press, club of clubs, flies its own flag on the premises.
The current ownership of J. Press had its genesis at the now defunct Dartmouth Club Lounge adjacent to the 7th Floor Barber Shop. In 1986, as vice president of The Dartmouth Club of New York, I enjoyed off-hours entrée to the collegiate venue allowing me to conduct secret negotiations for sale of the family business to Onward Kashiyama, our Japanese licensee since 1972. Kashiyama principals, lawyers and yours truly finalized the deal in the collegiate study hall under the unforgiving portrait of Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College, whose motto may also fittingly apply to my former family business, Vox Clamantis In Deserto (A voice crying out in the wilderness).
J. Press during my time in the family business made at least three address changes and so did the Dartmouth Club of New York. Dartmouth occupied a seven-room suite at the Park Avenue South and 38th Street Princeton Club when I joined the club in 1959. Princeton moved in 1963 to the spot from which it just gave up the ghost. Meanwhile the Dartmouth Club began a ten-year hiatus occupying mezzanine suites at the ill-fated Commodore Hotel.
The Commodore in 1973 was a fading gem next to the even more dilapidated Grand Central Terminal. The end days of the hotel were seedy with a massage parlor on the mezzanine evicted on the grounds that it was a “sex palace.” Hotel management said at the time that “the only thing that could save the Commodore is…a knight in shining armor.” A young real estate entrepreneur named Donald J. Trump was waiting in the wings.
The Dartmouth Club fled dire circumstances in the Commodore landing in Boola Boola Land in 1973. J. Press joined the fraternity in 2017 with the New York Times proclaiming, “J. Press, the ‘tailor-of-choice’ to generations of Ivy League men, has returned to Madison Avenue with the opening of the brand’s new flagship store, located on the ground level of the Yale Club.”
Who knows, maybe the Yale Club will proffer Old Nassau an invitation to the ball?