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11 Most Exclusive Private Clubs in America

Private Club Marketing has compiled these 11 most exclusive private clubs in America as some of our favorite meeting places and drinking holes for America's rich and famous. For the most part, these are urban clubs, designed for the city gentlemen to take a break from the often hectic lifestyle they lead on their jobs. Some of them, however, are placed outside city limits and represent a perfect getaway for when you’re tired from the urban jungle and need to relax in nature.

11. Jonathan Club, Los Angeles, Santa Monica — With two locations, it offers its members a luxury experience they are accustomed to. Its beach clubhouse in Santa Monica is something most other clubs on our list don’t have and it’s one of the Jonathan Club’s main selling points.

10. The Knickerbocker Club, New York — The Knickerbocker Club was founded by dissatisfied members of the Union Club who felt that the Union’s admission standards were too low. Although two clubs reconciled their differences later and there was even talk of the merger back in the 1950s, in the end they remained separate entities with distinctive club policies.

9. The Algonquin Club, Boston — What started as the men’s business club is now one of the most diverse clubs on our list. Algonquin Club currently has reciprocal arrangements with more than 100 clubs around the world and is considered as one of the best connected private clubs in the world. Its 130-anniversary celebration in April 2016 was the highlight of the city’s season.

8. Bohemian Club, San Francisco — Unlike most clubs on the list, the Bohemian Club isn’t a place of business. In fact, it is highly frowned upon, in line with the club motto “Weaving spiders come not here.” The main clubhouse is located in downtown San Francisco, offering an urban retreat. It also has another clubhouse, called Bohemian Grove in Sonora County, where members gather once a year for a two-week retreat and forget all their worries of everyday life.

7. The Somerset Club, Boston — In the 1940s, a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Somerset Club. It was in the middle of a dinner for members and their guests. So, the club’s president did the only reasonable thing. He led the firemen through the service entrance in the back so that esteemed gentlemen wouldn’t be disturbed by such base and trivial concerns as a fire on the premises. Those in the know claim that the club attitude hasn’t changed since.

6. The Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh — Founded in 1873, the club has since grown to one of the best retreats for corporate elite in the United States. The unparalleled luxury it offers to its members has ensured that the club has been voted the best city club in America several times and is constantly in top three.

5. The University Club of Washington, D.C. — Located about half a mile north of the White House, the University Club of Washington, D.C. is one of the most exclusive private clubs in the nation’s capital. Much of its fame is owed to its first president, William Howard Taft, a man behind the club’s motto: “Enter all of ye who have a degree of good fellowship and learning.” Like other university clubs in the country, you have to own a university-level degree in any field before you are even considered for a membership.

4. Union League of Philadelphia — Founded in 1862, the Union League currently holds the first place on the Five Star Platinum Club list, based on amenities it offers to its members. Ever since its origins, one of the main pillars of its policies was the strong support for the US armed forces, depicted by two statues in front of its building. It is one of the rare private clubs that allows public access and tours throughout its facilities.

3. The California Club, Los Angeles — The old saying goes: “The people who run Los Angeles belong to the Jonathan Club. The people who own Los Angeles belong to the California Club.” From a humble start above the local stables, California Club has grown into one of the most iconic powerhouses in California. Its members are the movers and shakers of not only Los Angeles but the entire Golden State. California Club clubhouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a home to a very valuable art collection, gathered throughout club’s history.

2. Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C. — It is said that a sure sign of someone’s success in Washington, DC is a membership in Cosmos Club. Considering that past members include four presidents, 12 Supreme Court Justices and more than 30 Nobel Prize winners, we’d have to agree with that. It has played an integral part in the country’s history, with National Geographic and Wilderness Society both founded on its premises.

1. The Union Club, New York — One of the oldest private clubs in the United States, the Union Club changed several locations before finally settling on its current one. Although the club changed buildings, its strong conservative values remained unwavering throughout its history. One of the most controversial decisions in the club’s history is the one refusing to expel Confederate membersafter the beginning of the Civil War. This led to a strife among the membership and some of them went on to form other clubs, like Knickerbocker Club. The Union Club managed to recover from this setback and is currently considered the most exclusive private club in America.

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