Immigrants flocking to Hoboken near the turn of the 20th century caused a building boom in the city, but new residents needed places to feel at home in their new country. As a result, social clubs became deeply ingrained in the culture of the era and while many of them eventually fell by the wayside, their legacy has left a few architectural gems around the city.
One of the more prominent clubs in Hoboken went through several changes as the city’s population shifted over the years. The Deutscher Club was started in 1864 by German immigrants, who would dominate the city’s demographics until World War I. They constructed their two-story social club at 600 Hudson Street shortly after forming, and the oldest parts of the building go back to at least 1870.
In the 1930s, a local Italian businessman named Joseph Samperi’s purchased the building and renamed it The Union Club. The venue had three bars, a wine room, a “Gold Room” that was reserved for female patrons, and a ballroom complete with a stage that Frank Sinatra once landed a gig performing on for $40 a week before he hit it big.
The facility even had a bowling alley with four lanes in the basement and operated from 1935 until the 1980s, when the property was expanded to seven stories and converted into 39 condominiums.
Another defunct social club still stands at 1101 Bloomfield Street and has an exterior that is remarkably unchanged from when it was built. Formerly known as the Columbia Club, it was constructed in 1891 by some of Hoboken’s wealthiest men. Designed in the Richardson Romanesque style, the building features rounded arches and contrasting color bands.
The interior of the club featured spacious, mahogany-paneled rooms that included a library, a card room and spaces used for receptions and lectures that reflected the group’s desire to promote cultural and civic projects. The building later became the Euclid Masonic Temple in 1917, which operated for a few decades out of the site before a church took it over. It was eventually converted into four condos in 1990 that retained many of the original architectural details.
Residents who pass by these buildings should appreciate them, because a social club credited with being one of the country’s oldest didn’t pass the test of time. A group called The Turtle Club was founded by Col. John Stevens all the way back in 1796 and early membership included Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and John Jay. The first official meeting of the club took place at what is now Sybil’s Cave.
The group’s moniker came from soup they served using turtles that were prominent along the banks of the Hudson River at the time. The club was so popular that The New York Times took notice, but the group eventually disbanded years later. A local bar re-established the name back in 2009.
Elsewhere along the waterfront, The New York Yacht Club was actually founded in Hoboken back in 1844 by the son of Col. Stevens, John Cox Stevens. Their original clubhouse was built on 10th Street along the Hudson and the group met there until 1865. The club later moved around to a few different locations before settling in at their current spot in Newport, Rhode Island. A homage to the club was built in Maxwell Place Park during the 2000s to resemble the original structure.
But one century-old social club remains active to this day. The Hoboken Elks Club at 1005 Washington Street was built by a chapter that was founded in 1888. As membership grew, they secured property in 1894 and later built their facility in 1906. The Hoboken Elks are the only chapter in New Jersey that still occupies their original building, and the property is still used for everything from film shoots to private events.