History of The George Town Club

George Town bannerThe George Town Club is one of the most elegant in-town clubs in the United States, patterned after the finest clubs in London and Paris. The warm, home-like Club offers a retreat to its Members, with superb cuisine, privacy, and friendly but gracious service in a setting that fosters relaxed personal enjoyment.

The Club was formed in 1966 for the purpose of bringing together leaders who had an impact on the United States and the world through their work in various business, professional, civic, social and political milieus. Since then, the Club has been a focal point for entertaining prominent Washingtonians, diplomats, socialites and leaders in business, government and academia. Diplomatic missions of many nations are represented in the Membership. Many members of the United States Senate, Congress and the Supreme Court have been included as guests at the Club, along with a number of presidents. We are pleased that the Club family reflects a true cross-section of the leaders of the American and world communities.

The Club occupies one of the few remaining 18th Century frame buildings in the historic port district of Georgetown, and is believed to have been John Suter’s Tavern, circa 1783. In that era, inns and taverns were the focal points of community life in addition to offering food, drink and lodging-true “public houses” where political debate, civic meetings and business deals were common. At Suter’s Tavern, President George Washington, surveyor Andrew Ellicott and Capital architect Major Pierre L’Enfant met at least three times to plan the Federal City that would become Washington, District of Columbia. When plans were complete, the first plats for the city were auctioned off at the tavern.

When the George Town Club was formed in 1966, the founders extensively renovated the run down historic building. They added the brick entryway, excavated the lower level, imported European paneling, chandeliers, furniture and artwork, and rescued the wrought iron work by Samuel Yellin from the demolition of the original Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank in New York. Over time, two adjacent brick townhouses were incorporated into the growing Club and were finished with the same care and detail as the original rooms.

The unusual arched oak doors and carvings in the Foyer are French 16th Century from a small estate south of Paris. The bas-relief portraits on the doors and the paneling feature the heirs to the French throne at that time.

The Living Room

The Living Room walls are entirely of English Tudor walnut linen-fold paneling produced by craftsman of royal warrant. The same paneling is found at Hampton Court, begun by Cardinal Wolsey and finished by Henry VIII. The wall sconces are Baccarat crystal. Standing guard along the stairs are life-sized 16th Century figures of warriors.

Next door, the Library reflects the dark opulence of American Victoriana, with satin-finished mahogany walls and lush pastoral French verdure tapestry. The large bay window is draped in antique velvet, surmounted by an intricate brass cornice.

The airy Garden Room is a classic 19th Century reception room with daylight pouring in through leaded glass clerestory windows and nighttime illumination from a 4-foor crystal chandelier and sconces. The outdoor ambience of the room is a bright and lively change from the more formal areas of the Club.

On the second floor, the extraordinary oak paneling in the Main Dining Room was created after the style of Robert Adams, who was England’s premier architect in the late 1700’s about the same time as the construction of the building. It features figures found in artifacts discovered in Pompeii-mythical animals, cherubs, satyrs, serpents, horses and mermaids. At either end of the sideboard are fishing vessels figureheads, framing a leaded glass demi-lune that was originally a feature of J. P. Morgan’s private office.

The Founders’ Room offers Members an intimate setting for private dining under soft natural light filtered through a skylight draped with a delicate chiffon rosette.  At the end of the long hall, past the intimate Small Dining Room, is the formal Georgian Dining Room, designed with the symmetry that was so important in that period. This classic room, warmed by sunlight during the day and the fireplace at night, also houses the Club’s collection of fine Korean celadon ware. During World War II, this room was part of a rooming house for a few of the thousands of young woman who came to Washington to help with the war effort.

The Williamsburg Room

Near the bottom of the main stairs, the Williamsburg Room is an authentic reproduction of a late 17th Century tavern, reminiscent of the Raleigh Tavern. Overhead brass chandeliers and wall sconces are replicas of those in the Governor’s Palace. The extraordinary warmth of the room comes from faux finished sienna walls, a patterned Axminster carpet and the corner fireplace.

In the lower level of the Club, the Wine Cellar is paneled with oak in the same design as the Windsor Room in London’s Connaught Hotel. The bar alcove displays 18th Century French Repoussé brass panels depicting the four seasons. The iron gates enclosing the Members’ private wine bins and the leaded glass door, like chandeliers in the foyer and main stairwell, are part of the J. P. Morgan collection. Of special note are the wrought iron pineapples, miniature heads and serpents atop the gates. The slate floor is from quarries once owned by Thomas Jefferson near his estate at Monticello.

More casual dining is available in the Grill, just off the Library, but with its own entrance from the street.  Besides casual dining at lunch and dinner, this intimate room is ideal for cocktails, late light fare and dancing.  Between the seated mirrored bar, to the disco-style dance floor, members and their guests can relax at small tables surrounded by comfortable chairs, settees and understated art.  Always dimly lighted, the Grill is the perfect venue for cozy gatherings or theme evenings featuring live music. 

The George Town Club’s true distinction is its traditions of fine dining and excellent service all in an elegant setting. It is a place where people with similar interests and tastes converge with the enduring traditions of style and grace.