Boston,  Darn Good Ideas

Social Clubs of Boston

I’ve been reading this nerdy (trendwatchers wiser than I say that you can’t call things nerdy anymore when you secretly believe they are awesome. Hipster trends have cancelled out self-deprecating comments like that. For the best, I suppose.) fascinating book I picked up at Brattle Book Shop. Most Boston clubs began because there weren’t good dining options at the time. And most of them were men only. Many of them still exist (like the Club of Odd Volumes in Beacon Hill, or the Union Club on Park Street). But you probably wouldn’t notice their clubhouse if you walked past it, or know that it might have been purchased by club members more than a century before.

You can probably see straight through me: I want a social club of my own. Primarily there would be velvet armchairs, fresh scones, and a big fireplace. We might have charge dues but you also might get to nap like a cat on the rug in the sunshine. You would know you could bring your friends for drinks when they came to town, there would be seats for everyone, and you wouldn’t have to shout over the music or feel guilty if you didn’t order lots of cocktails. In fact there would be a very grand dark wood bar, but members would take turns being the bartender. There would be a letter writers meeting, and many many book groups. Maybe there would be a little terrace to share iced tea. We would have a playwright among our members, and we would perform her plays annually (this is stolen from the Tavern Club, they still do this!). And we would have a very nice emblem monogrammed on all our towels. There would be a knitting meeting where everyone got very drunk. And movie showings, with a full candy bar. Yes, I do think we’d have to charge dues.

Speaking of classy traditions…I finally learned how to play chess! Maybe an old fox can learn new tricks…maybe I will learn stick-shift one of these days!



  • joannabc

    You can start your social club at my writer’s commune, which is currently located in Dordogne, France. G taught me to drive stick-shift one day in Paris and I have never driven it since that day.

      • joannabc

        Technically I “know how.” My desire to ever actually drive stick shift, though, is nil.

        Actually I’m not drawn to the word commune at all, but I’m drawn to the idea of a social epicenter where like-minded people can gather to participate in activities planned and unplanned, all of which is in some intentional or loose way orchestrated by me. Commune’s the only word I have for that! I did grow up on an organic farm, y’know.

  • casey

    this would be my most favorite club..can we pen novels in there, too?? i see lots of discussion ranging from philosophy to architecture, and lip gloss to arugula! the options are endless!

    by the way, we learned to play chess last summer with the aid of our iphones. fun, right?!

  • Jessica Clare

    LOVE this! Darn Good Idea, indeed 🙂 P.S. are you still making the hand embroidered patches? I emailed you about one a while back, but I didn’t want to bug you again because you’re doing them for free! Just let me know if you are still into it 🙂 Jessica

  • Erin

    A grand leap forward from our childhood “bump club”—and no neighbor boys to fend off with water and dirty looks alone. Can there also be cream and jam for the scones? They are perfect that way!

  • Shannon Schreiber

    That book does sound fascinating! DC has similar historic social clubs and the joke today is that the Metropolitan Club has the money, The University Club has the brains, and the City Club has neither. We have the privilege of visiting the University club on occasion and it is always a thrilling experience.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Yes, in fact I think he mentions that a couple DC clubs as being equally old, if not older than Boston ones. We have a University Club in Beacon Hill…I keep meaning to take my friend up on her invitation but haven’t yet. I like to look through the windows though.

  • Birgit

    What a find (And what a perfect place to find it)! I so often think of this private club idea when I’m out somewhere that nearly hits the mark, but just isn’t quite right, and definitely not as cozy as napping on the rug by a fire!

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