Century Association , the most unspeakably respectable club in NY

Private clubs have been a part of New York City for centuries. Some clubs were more exclusive than others. The private gentleman’s club, based on the English model, has had a long history in the five boroughs. Men socialized, dined, and drank with other men of their social class in beautiful surroundings.

Membership to these clubs was (and still is) difficult to obtain. I already wrote about some of the clubs  - The Racquet and Tennis Club, private club with nude swimming tradition and Lamb's club on 44th street Century Association is one of the oldest private clubs in New York. 

William Bryant
 Mark Twain once referred to this club as, “The most unspeakably respectable club in New York”. The club was based on an early earlier organization – the Sketch Club, founded in 1829 by editor and poet William Cullen Bryant, American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post. 


In 1884, New York City's Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor. William Bryant was one of the first club presidents. In the Clubs' constitution is written: "The name of the Association shall be "The Century". It shall be composed of authors, artists and amateurs of Letters and Fine Arts, residents Of City of New York and its vicinity: its objects the cultivation of a taster for Letters and the Arts and Social enjoyment" .
 

The club fee at that that time was 20 dollars per year and no games of any kind were allowed in the Rooms of Association. The members of the club called each other "The Brothers of the Century". The number of members was supposed to be limited to 100. The Century Association web page said: "The Century is a quintessentially New York place: Despite its debt to London clubs and the national and even international character of its membership, it could exist nowhere else. Its main activity is conversation."

There are about two thousand members now and Michael Bloomberg , Henry Kissinger and the oldest living member of the Rockefeller family David Rockefeller are among them. Till the end of the 20th century the club, as almost all other private New York clubs, was male-only. Century begun admitting female members only in 1989. In 1891, The Century Association left the old club on 15th Street for its current location, at 7 West 43rd Street, an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo. 

The new club house was designed by the prominent architecture company McKim, Mead & White. Stanford White was the member of the club. Six years before The Century clubhouse the company built Villard Mansion, today New York Palace Hotel. Later the same company built many beautiful buildings for other New York Private clubs, such as Harmonie Club, University Club of New York and Harvard Club of New York.

Century Associations Members, referred as Centurions, appeared on the American and Foreign stamps. Of 112 Centurions honored there are eight Presidents two prime ministers 22 artists and sculptors. Seventeen Nobel laureates - centurions have appeared on the stamps.