The Racquet and Tennis Club, private club with nude swimming tradition

2013 year photo
The Racquet and Tennis Club is a private social club and athletic club located at 370 Park Avenue, between East 52nd and 53rd Streets, New York, New York.   Construction began on December 20, 1916, and was completed on September 7, 1918. The builder was Mark Edlitz, and the estimated cost was $400,000. The building is about 200 feet by 100 feet (30 m x 60 m) and five stories tall,   with the  height twice the width of Park Avenue. The exterior is stone and brick over a structural steel frame.
The Racquet Court  club was opened in 1876 and   merged with Racquet Tennis Club in 1890. The First Club house was located on West 43 street. The Club moved to it’s current location in 1918.
In the Club Book, published in 1917, said that “The initiation fee for the members is $200 and annual dues - $150. The visitor had to pay  in advance $25  per month. The club house shall  be open up till 1AM and restaurant  from 7AM until 10PM.NO gratuity should be given to any servant” .
1930 year photo

The fee was really high - in 1917  the food costs averaged about $22 a month, which was slightly more than half the $40 average monthly salary of American workers. 
One hundred dollars in 1917  worth the same as $2000  today.  
Racquet and Tennis Club building is representative of the elaborate private clubs constructed in New York during the early twentieth century.
Inside, at the top of the stairs on the second floor was a comfortable lounge.  A dining room, bar, library, billiard room and card room were also housed here. In the floors above were racquets courts, squash courts, changing rooms, and court tennis courts. (Court tennis must not be confused with lawn tennis; it is a completely different game involving sloping walls  with bouncing balls off all four walls).
Today, there are four International squash courts, one North American doubles squash court, one racquets court, and the two tennis courts.
It is as much of a time capsule of the Gilded Age as can be found in Manhattan, and members observe a strict code of silence about all that takes place behind its thick stone walls.  The Racquet Club was able to remain all male by arguing that so long as no business was conducted within its walls, no discrimination was practiced.
The club sold its air rights on Park Avenue to a developer a number of decades ago, resulting in the unusual sight, for New York, of a glass-clad skyscraper rising in the middle of the block, immediately behind the club.
Unlike many other private clubs that once catered exclusively to men and now admit women, the Racquet and Tennis has held fast to its men-only membership policy. (Women are welcome at club social events if accompanied by a male member) 
 In 1987, the club famously refused to allow court tennis player Evelyn David, who lived “a few blocks” from the club,  to train for the Women's World Tennis Championship, citing its men-only rules. There were  only nine court tennis clubs in America at that time and Evelin had to travel 1.5  hours to Tuxedo tennis court.   
As of summer 2012 at least four private clubs In New York City  still bar women — The Holland Society, The New York Racquet and Tennis Club, The Brook Club and The Anglers's Club of New York.
Until 1980s it was a  common practice to have a most natural way on swimming- nude   in Gilded Age private clubs around New York.   Later some of the clubs were forced to admit women.
The New York Racquet and Tennis Club is a rare place where there are  after-work men-only naked swimming sessions.

Read more: The Tao of Skinny-Dipping ( new York Times)


  1. It’s a well kept secret😳

  2. It's a damn shame keeping women out of the club, in this day and age.