New York City's 10 Most Exclusive Social Clubs

by Chiara Atik · August 10, 2010

    Membership dues are in the thousands of dollars, clubhouses are often unmarked, membership lists kept top secret. The New York Social Club is still going strong after 174 years, unhurt by recessions, depressions, and even (gasp) the admittance of women. Some of the clubs aren't so secret anymore (ahem, Soho House), but that doesn't make it any easier to obtain membership...-

    Here's a look at New York City's most exclusive Social Clubs, in no particular order:, in

    1. The Harmonie Club

    Location: East 60th Street

    Founded In: 1852

    Amenities: Squash courts, a Spa, a barber shop, private dining, esteemed political guests including both Clintons and every New York Mayor.

    Dress Code: Business Casual

    Current Membership: Estimate 1,000 members, predominately Jewish (though Club leaders are quick to say this is because Non-jews aren't interested in membership, and not because of any discrimination on the part of the club.)

    Famous Members: Michael Bloomberg resigned from the club before running for mayor, in protest of the club's lack of diversity.

    2. Norwood

    Location: West 14th Street

    Founded In: 2007

    Amenities: A fifty seat Club Room restaurant, three lounge bars, a forty-five seat screening room, and a walled garden, as well as "talks, tastings, and stimulating events."

    Membership: Creative types and artists. The Membership Application includes college essay-type questions like "What is your most satisfying accomplishment?" and "Who would you most like to collaborate with?"

    Cost: Members are also required to pay $1,000 membership fee, plus $750 yearly dues.

    Who Hangs Out There: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen hosted the launch of Olsenboye there earlier this year; Bijou Phillips and Danny Masterson are said to party there as well.

    3. The Belizean Grove

    Location: HQ at East 89th Street

    Founded In: 2001 (as a response to the all-Male Bohemian Club in S.F.)

    Amenities: Trips around the world? A "balance of fun, substantive programs, and bonding"?

    Current Membership: 125 members from military, financial, and diplomatic sectors. Also the Victoria's Secret and Harley-Davidson sectors. All women, of course.

    Famous Members: Sonia Sotomayor was a member until she resigned due to concerns over the group's membership policy.


    4. Soho House

    Location: Ninth Avenue, in the Meatpacking

    Founded In: 2003

    Amenities: Drawing Room, Games Room, Library, Restaurant, Bar, and of course, New York's most exclusive swimming pool.

    Dress Code: No Suits.

    Cost: Full membership, $1,800 (only $250 for children!)

    Current Membership: The club started out with 500 members (including Graydon Carter, Harvey Weinstein, Zac Posen, and the club's de-facto spokesman, Euan Rellie.)  but now has a staggering 5,000 members.

    Waiting List for Membership: 3,000 people, including one Mariah Carey, who was deemed "too tacky".

    The Purge: Soho House is attempting to return to its more exclusive, less social-climby roots by purging members. They know conduct annual reviews in connection with membership renewals.

    5. The Union Club

    Location: The Northeast Corner of 69th and Park

    Founded In: 1836 (It's the oldest Social Club in New York)

    Amenities: Grand Ballroom, squash courts, five dining areas, backgammon room, card room

    Dress Code: Jacket and tie. (Hilariously, "Denim is not permitted in the club")

    House Rules: The use or display of cell phones or other hand-held PDAs is strictly forbidden in all common areas of the Club. Guests who wish to use these devices inside the Club may do so within the telephone booths located throughout the building.

    Famous Members: John Jacob Astor, Ulysses S. Grant, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Dominick Dunne

    6. The Core Club

    Location: East 55th Street

    Founded In: 2005, by Jennie Saunders

    Amenities: Walls decorated by Damien Hirst, a library, screening room, gym, Tom Colicchio-designed menu, world-class concierge service.

    Cost: $50,000 to join, $15,000 yearly dues.

    Current Membership: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Tory Burch, and Richard Meier are among the 600 members.

    Wanna Try Sneaking In?: Good luck: members have their fingerprints scanned at the door. You'll have better luck checking in on Foursquare and pretending you're there.

    7. The Union League

    Location: East 37th, in Murray Hill

    Founded In: 1863, when abolitionists broke away from The Union Club during the Civil War.

    Amenities: Fitness Center, Squash Court, Art Gallery, Dining Rooms, Library, 60 bedrooms, wine cellar

    Dress Code: "Denim, sneakers, athletic apparel of any description, or immodest attire are never permitted."

    House Rules: The "display of papers" is restricted to The Main Lounge; the use of I.D. badges is prohibited; no tipping!

    Famous Members: George Bush Sr., Margaret Thatcher, Neil Armstrong, Henry Kissinger, Frederick Law Olmsted, Ulysses S. Grant

    8. The Century Association

    Location: 43rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues

    Founded In: 1847, as "the most unspeakably respectable club in the United States."

    Amenities: Uhm, really really good conversation? According to the only page of their website accessible to non-members,

    "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."

    Current Membership: around 2,400 members.

    Famous Members: Brooke Astor, Chuck Close, Major Bloomberg.

    9. The University Club

    Location: West 54th at Fifth Ave

    Founded in: 1861, by a bunch of Yalies who clearly thought just one club in New York was not enough.

    Amenities: The usual "unparalleled services to members", aka squash, spa, dining halls, but also what the club claims is the world's largest and finest club library. Also a tap room!

    Dress Code: Ahem, "jeans, shorts, capris, sneakers, flip flips and other such casual sportswear are not considered appropriate attire."

    House Rules: No mention of the Club's name may be made in any press release or published photograph/No nails, tacks, staples or tape are permitted. (Ha.)

    Be Careful!: If you aren't in dress code, rumor has it they'll actually make you go through the service entrance!

    10. The Knickerbocker Club

    Location: Fifth Avenue and 62nd Street

    Founded in: 1871

    Famous Members:Douglas Fairbanks, John Jacob Astor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    How Exclusive Is It?: So exclusive that they don't have a website. But we DID find a Health Inspection violation, indicating "evidence of mice present in the facility's food areas".