Thursday, March 2, 2017

Daemons Discover New Haven: New Haven Lawn Club

Hello All Souls universe Faithful! Where did we last leave you? Oh yes, it was at the Beinecke Library. Well, we decided to take a break from rare book and manuscript ogling browsing, and head over to the New Haven Lawn Club for a quick tour!

“I looked toward the door, but there was still no sign of Matthew. He was at Human Resources getting his identification badge while I waited for him in the rarefied atmosphere of the nearby New Haven Lawn Club.” 
~ The Book of Life

New Haven Lawn Club

The New Haven Lawn Club (“NHLC” or "Club") is yet another luxurious backdrop to which the de Clermonts are privy in the All Souls Trilogy – specifically, The Book of Life.  In both the All Souls universe and reality, it is a private club located on Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut close to Yale University. It is a social and athletic facility, and membership is not only required, it is exclusive.  The New Haven Lawn Club offer its members a wide range of activities and events including tennis, swimming, food, art exhibits, concerts, book clubs, and fitness classes. The Club is also a venue for many of New Haven's prestigious dances and other social events.  While there are unique member privileges, certain spaces within the NHLC can be secured by non-members for events.

The History (c'mon - you know we had to go there!)
In the late 19th century, American communities saw an explosion of athletic and country clubs for sports such as cricket, yachting and tennis to name a few.  By many accounts, tennis came to New Haven through the city's growing business and Yale connections with New York (where tennis was first played in the United States).  A group of New Haveners started a tennis club in the summer of 1884.  The organization is first mentioned in the New Haven Register on September 25, 1884.

In 1891, the New Haven Lawn Club was formally incorporated in order, as the Articles of Association state, "to promote outdoor and indoor sports in the city of New Haven, and to provide for its members means for the enjoyment of the same.” The new private club was built on a large tract of land on Whitney Avenue receiving its official charter in that same year.

“[New Haven Lawn Club] They've taken very good care of me.” [Diana said.]
“So they should.” On our way into the grand brick building, Matthew had explained that Marcus was one of the founding members of the private club and that the facility was built on land he’d once owned.” 
~ The Book of Life

Here’s where we fall into the All Souls world:  The same year that New Haven Lawn Club was incorporated, the New Haven Lawn Company was formed. The Lawn Company was formed to sell stock to raise funds.  The proceeds were used to buy land and build a clubhouse. The Lawn Company purchased an interior lot with access to Whitney Avenue, a developing upper-middle class neighborhood. A clubhouse was promptly built, and it was expanded several times in the years afterward.  Over the years, the Club gradually acquired most of the Company's stock.

Things that make you go hmmm . . .
  • Selling stock? Raising money? Buying/selling real estate? Some of Marcus’ land? If only there was someone in the de Clermont family with such expertise! That's right folks, we smell the financial counsel and brokering of shrewd Uncle Baldwin, but that’s probably another story for another day!
  • The time period (late 1800s): Perhaps the campaign that Matthew waged to bring Marcus (and his "boisterous and charming" family) to heel in New Orleans in the earlier 1800s exorcised a good portion of the hell-raising out of him, and Marcus headed back north to lead a more discreet yet refined life surrounded by more enterprising creatures.
  • Matthew was a stone's throw away in New York around the turn of the century as the quote below suggests.  Your guess is as good as ours how long he was in New York and what that secretive vampire was up to, but our flight of fancy says (albeit anti-climatically) he could have been periodically checking in on his young son --- who he recently (in vampire-time anyway) got out of hot water.
“I must learn from my mistakes—Gerbert’s been saying so since you abandoned me in New York.” Juliette focused on Matthew with an avidity that made my flesh crawl."
“That was more than a hundred years ago."

~ A Discovery of Witches 

And so concludes our All Souls game of "what if" -- one of our favorite Daemon past-times, if you haven't already guessed by now!

Alas, let's get back to the original topic at hand - the founding and development of the Club. It represented the Gilded Age enthusiasm for clubs for athletic and social activities. As was common with private clubs during that era, the Lawn Club not only provided athletic facilities and activities, it was also a social center where members could be assured of meeting carefully chosen social peers.  The New Haven Lawn Club has played an important role in the social life of upper-class New Haven for well over 100 years.  (Sounds like a de Clermont job well-done! :D)

“The hushed confines of the main building dampened the distinctive plonk of tennis balls and the screaming children enjoying the pool during the last week of summer vacation.”
 ~ The Book of Life

The Layout
The Lawn Club mansion is rich with architectural details. Visitors enter the foyer through a vaulted portico, archways, and columns made of the local red brick.

NHLC foyer
A Lalique crystal chandelier is a stunning centerpiece in the foyer.  (You can see *just* a sliver of it above, and a closer view here).  There are also working fireplaces to be found throughout the building.

One hall leading to event rooms

The New Haven Lawn Club is home to several event rooms.  Let's take a look at some of them, shall we?

The Ballroom
This grand room is the NHLC ’s original social gathering room. It is a stunning space that envelopes you in "era gone by" glamour. The room has a 25-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows that meet pristine hardwood floors. The ballroom - fit for a de Clermont - is decorated with star accents, a large wood-burning fireplace, four Austrian Art Deco crystal chandeliers, crystal wall sconces, a built-in stage, and a terrace overlooking the tennis courts.

The Main Dining Room
This is the original members' dining room.  It is a bright, airy space with two wood-burning fireplaces (one at each end of the room) and three glorious Waterford crystal chandeliers in addition to the natural light. Regency columns frame the main dining area perfectly, but to complement this area, there is a sizeable gallery on the opposite side of the columns.  It is just as striking with its black and ochre checkered terrazzo floor and floor-to-ceiling windows which also overlook Club grounds.

The Main Dining room is pictured above, and the opposing gallery can be viewed here

The Lounge
The Lounge is the Club's original living room.  It a wood-paneled room with Art Deco sconces, Chinoiserie drapes, Oriental rugs, a wood-burning fireplace, and French doors that open out onto a terrace.

The Private Dining Room
The Club’s original informal dining room is a classically decorated room with toile drapes, a wood-burning fireplace, and antique buffet.

The Lower Card Room
This is the last remaining original Club card room.  It is adorned with an antique mahogany dinning set, a wood-burning fireplace, a Chesterfield sofa and an Oriental rug.

The Architecture
The architecture of the clubhouse is primarily Colonial Revival. (We wonder if Marcus had any influence on the design. You can take the man out of the Colonial Era, but you can't take the Colonial Era out of the man!)

Fun fact:  All Souls dreaming aside, and in all fairness, the Colonial Revival Movement and the resurgence of the eponymous architectural style became popular after the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia. It commemorated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Both, the movement and the architecture style, gained momentum by the 1880s and continued well into the 20th century.

The current clubhouse, built in 1931 to replace the former clubhouse that had burned in 1929, is credited to architect Douglas W. Orr, but much of the detail design is by William Douglas.

While not quite as ancient as some of the other places mentioned in the All Souls Trilogy, the Club does have the distinction of being listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Its noted areas of significance are its Architecture and Social History.  (If walls could talk, right?)

So there you have it!  A quick glimpse at a long distinguished yet exclusive and historic New Haven institution -- with de Clermont ties no less.  We wouldn't have expected anything less, and it's why we love them so -- dabbling and shaping history around the world throughout the centuries.

Until next time, friends, #FeedYourDaemons!

xo, ~The Daemons

P.S.  To see the complete photo gallery of our New Haven Lawn Club excursion, visit us on Flickr, here!

National Park Service
New Haven Lawn Club website

Post by A. Hutter
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