Edwin Booth, the most celebrated American actor of the 19th century, had come back from self-imposed exile in Europe after his brother had assassinated Abraham Lincoln, with an idea. He had hung out at London’s Garrick Club, named after David Garrick, the great English actor and producer of the 18th century and wondered why there was not such a social club for theater artists in the United States.
So in 1888, with the help of Mark Twain, General William Tecumseh Sherman and 13 other illustrious men of the day (as the brochure puts it), he turned the mansion built in 1847 at 16 Gramercy Park into The Players Club. He reserved an apartment in the building for himself, where he lived until his death five years later. His bedroom is still intact, a museum exhibit on display — for members and their guests.
Some 600 members — 40 percent people in the performing arts (actors, writers, etc.) and 60 percent “arts patrons” – pay annual dues of $2,000 to drink where Ernest Hemingway did, or sit at the piano surely used by Leonard Bernstein, or gaze at the portraits of James Cagney, Irving Berlin, or Helen Hayes — who was the first woman admitted into membership…in 1989!
Critics from around the country took a tour of the club — the oldest New York City club that’s still in its original location.