One of the city's
most exclusive and prestigious private men's social clubs, the
Knickerbocker was founded in 1871 when some members of the Union
Club became concerned over a relaxation of admission policies
at that club.
In 1913, the club commissioned this clubhouse from Delano &
Aldrich. Its red-brick, Georgian-style design is very understated.
While attractive in terms of color and scale, the building's exterior
detailing is not extraordinary and a rooftop addition is rather
ungainly. The interiors are handsome, but conservative and not
exciting. The sidestreet entrance leads to a staircase up to the
main floor on the second level. The club, which has high ceilings,
is noted for its food.
A nice component of the
design is the setback, walled garden on the avenue frontage. For
many decades, this property was abutted to the south by another
Georgian-style structure, the townhouse of Mrs. Marcellus H. Dodge,
a dog fancier who kept a large garden surrounded by a wooden fence
at the northeast corner of 61st Street and the avenue adjoining
her midblock mansion that was sold in the 1970s and redeveloped
as a luxury apartment building that was built flush on the avenue
with a large midblock plaza.
In his fine book, "Touring The Upper East Side, Walks in
Five Historic Districts" (published by the New York Landmarks
Conservancy, 1995), Andrew S. Dolkart offers the following commentary
about the club and its architects:
"This firm often combined historic American Colonial and
English Neo-classical forms, creating deceptively simple buildings,
as which the Knickerbocker is an early masterpiece. The flat rectilinear
wall planes of brick laid in Flemish bond are punctuated by large
multi-paned windows and enriched with the subtlest of ornament.
A meticulous restoration was completed in 1992."
The same architectural firm
designed the larger and more attractive Colony Club two blocks
to the east at 564 Park Avenue, which was completed in 1916 (see
The City Review article).
It also designed the Union Club on Park Avenue at 69th Street.