Skip to content

  1. Prospect Stabilizes: 1910-1935

Cannon Club circa 1917

Cannon Club circa 1917

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1917, p.254

By the time Cannon Club occupied its new stone clubhouse in 1911, Prospect Avenue was beginning to assume recognizable form.


Quadrangle Club circa 1913

Quadrangle Club circa 1913

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1913, p.220

Eight of clubs had settled into their final homes, and the McCosh house, long a fixture on the Street, had just been taken over by Quadrangle Club. The clubs now controlled all the lots on the south side of Prospect.


Cannon Club in 1919

Cannon Club in 1919

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1919, p.228

As with Campus before it, Cannon did not seek to compete for architectural bragging rights with the other clubs when it replaced the old Osborn house with a new structure. Indeed, with its singular kitchen wing, mammoth chimney, and use of the same stone as the university, Cannon looks more like a transplant from the campus than a Prospect Avenue club.

This vaguely academic style would prove durable, however, and later inspired other clubs such as Dial and Cloister that were built of the same local stone as the University.


Charter Club circa 1915

Charter Club circa 1915

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1915, p.224

After 1911, the pieces on Prospect start falling into place rapidly. Charter Club, a handsome stone structure that combines both Colonial and Georgian elements, was built in 1913-14.


Charter Club circa 1916

Charter Club circa 1916

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1916, p.234

Designed by the Philadelphia firm of Mellor and Meigs, Charter features a rigidly symmetrical front elevation centered around a formal entrance porch.

Yet despite the elegance and formality of the design, Charter represents a different architectural tradition from Cottage and Colonial. In particular, the use of local stone, employed intentionally to blend with the Gothic buildings of the campus, fixes Charter as a latecomer to the development of Prospect.


Key and Seal Club circa 1906

Key and Seal Club circa 1906

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1906, p.232

About the same time, Key & Seal abandoned its old house on Nassau Street...


Key and Seal Club circa 1916

Key and Seal Club circa 1916

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1916, p.250

...and moved to Prospect, erecting a rambling, three- story wooden building just east of the new Charter clubhouse.


Key and Seal Club unbuilt project (1909-1910)

Key and Seal Club unbuilt project (1909-1910)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1911, p.240

This choice of design is significant, because Key & Seal rejected two other, considerably more formal plans: one an Elm- like Italianate Revival villa, ...


Key and Seal Club unbuilt project (1912?)

Key and Seal Club unbuilt project (1912?)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1914, p.226

... and the other a very formal Colonial Revival building with two- story columns framing the entrance. Economy appears to have been the decisive factor, as the clubhouse that was built resembles a stripped- down version of the rejected Colonial design.


Tower Club circa 1895

Tower Club circa 1895

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1895, p.190

This trend toward moderation would continue. In 1911, Tower Club had moved from its lodgings in the old Cottage building ...


Tower Club circa 1911

Tower Club circa 1911

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1905, p.206

... to the Fine House, which Quad had recently vacated to move into the McCosh House. Within a few years, though, Tower decided to replace the aging, shingle- style Fine House with a brick structure.


Tower Club after 1917

Tower Club after 1917

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 66

Started in 1915 and completed in 1917, Tower's new building was intentionally not designed on the same heroic scale as the other clubs.

As one member recalled, "It was our avowed aim and instructions to build an ample, attractive and practical clubhouse without making it ostentatious."


Quadrangle Club after 1916

Quadrangle Club after 1916

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 61

Quadrangle Club was the next to build. In 1916, Quad sold off the McCosh House and began erecting a Georgian clubhouse designed by one of its board members, Henry Milliken '05. (The McCosh House was moved to 387 Nassau Street, east of Harrison Street, where it still stands.)

Milliken's Quad Club is a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful effort. For example, the heroic scale of the entrance portico, modeled on the famous "Westover" in Tidewater Virginia, overpowers the rest of the facade. Meanwhile, the busy row of small attic- style windows on the second floor make Quad seem somewhat squat, almost as if it were missing a floor.

In the context of the development of Prospect Avenue, though, perhaps the most significant thing about Quad is that it does not even attempt to approach the monumental proportions of Colonial or Cottage. The Georgian style was still deemed appropriate for a club, but on a reduced scale, and thus Quad mirrors the overall trend toward restraint in club architecture.


Dial Lodge circa 1920

Dial Lodge circa 1920

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1920, p.308

Dial Lodge, another Milliken design, followed in 1917. Built of the same local stone as the University and featuring a variety of Collegiate Gothic touches, it reflects the increasing influence of academic buildings on club architecture. This stylistic conformity with the campus also sends the architectural message of Dial's allegiance to the university first, and to the club system second.


Terrace Club circa 1908

Terrace Club circa 1908

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1908, p.144

By the time the United States entered World War I in 1917, therefore, Prospect Avenue was almost complete. To be sure, there would still be movement on the margins. In 1920, for example, Terrace Club completely renovated the Hibben house ...


Terrace Club circa 1922

Terrace Club circa 1922

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1922, p.254

... and transformed it into a half- timbered Tudor building akin to Tiger Inn.


Cloister Inn after 1924

Cloister Inn after 1924

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 30

And although there was new construction, none of the post- war clubs could match the glory of the early buildings. Take the case of Cloister Inn, which once contemplated a building featuring a full cloister along the lines of Holder Hall. But these plans had to be shelved, and the clubhouse that was eventually built in 1923 between Cap & Gown and Charter is marred by a weak rear elevation.


Key and Seal Club after 1925

Key and Seal Club after 1925

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 64

Key &Seal fared somewhat better when it moved its old wooden clubhouse further east on Prospect and in the old location built its handsome brick clubhouse in 1925- 27. In this building, the shift to academic models for clubs comes to closure -- Key & Seal is almost architecturally interchangeable with the original Fine Hall (now Jones Hall, built in 1930).


Gateway Club after 1927

Gateway Club after 1927

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 64

There was one final burst of club activity. In 1927, Gateway Club took over a private residence on Washington Road next door to Terrace, but did not substantially change the building.


Court Club (1923-1926)

Court Club (1923-1926)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1895, p.190

That same year, Court Club demolished the old shingle building at the end of Prospect Avenue that served four clubs (Cottage, Tower, Cloister, and, since 1923, Court).


Court Club circa 1933

Court Club circa 1933

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1933, p.341

This fine old building was replaced with a utilitarian brick clubhouse that added little to the architectural pedigree of Prospect Avenue.


Arbor Inn circa 1938

Arbor Inn circa 1938

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1938, p.197

The last club built, Arbor Inn, is an unexceptional design, but nonetheless laden with visual symbolism. Built in 1935, this mock French chateau bears no traces of the dominant styles of Prospect Avenue -- Colonial, Georgian, and Gothic. Although the club system was more entrenched than ever by the mid- 30s, the world was changing and the design of Arbor Inn is significant in its adoption of a new period and a different style. By consciously rejecting old models, Arbor represents the culmination of the move away from highly formal club designs.

Thus the oldest and newest club buildings -- Tiger Inn and Arbor Inn -- form odd stylistic bookends around the mostly classical architectural development of Prospect Avenue. Tiger represents the only survivor of the clubs' first architectural phase, that less formal period that resonated of 19th-century resort life. Arbor Inn, modeled on a simple French country chateau, brings the evolution of the clubs back full circle to their modest origins. It marks the conclusion of the trend that started as far back as 1909, when Campus Club backed off from the challenge of matching the opulence of its peers.

In this regard, Arbor's rapid demise -- the club folded in 1939, after only four years in its new building -- seems somehow fitting. After all, the eating clubs started as loose- knit, short- lived associations, and their early choice of architectural styles reflected their informal character. The distinctly informal design (and questionable institutional vitality) of Arbor a half- century later harkens back to those uncertain early days. It is as if the Georgian splendor of Cottage Club had never been.

This cycle serves once again to remind us of the brevity and singularity of the club phenomenon. By the 1930s, the chance convergence of time, money, ambition, and architecture that created the Prospect Avenue of today had vanished under the economic and social pressures of the Depression. The great era of club construction was over, never to return.