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11 Most Exclusive Private Clubs in America

Editor

Editor

Private Club Marketing's editorial and research is conducted in conjunction with its advisory and development team.

Discover the 11 most exclusive private clubs in America, where the rich and famous gather to relax and network. From Los Angeles to New York, these urban and getaway clubs offer a glimpse into a world of privilege. Explore their histories, initiation fees, and annual dues as we take you inside these prestigious establishments.

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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.

Initiation fee: $30,000 & Annual dues: $4,000

Visit: Jonathan Club

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 the two clubs reconciled their differences later and there was even talk of a merger back in the 1950s, in the end, they remained separate entities with distinctive club policies.

Initiation fee: $50,000 & Annual dues: $10,000

Visit: The Knickerbocker Club

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

Initiation fee: $15,000 & Annual dues: $3,000

Visit: The Algonquin Club

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.

Initiation fee: $25,000 & Annual dues: $5,000

Visit: Bohemian Club

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 firefighters 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's attitude hasn't changed since.

Initiation fee: $20,000 & Annual dues: $4,000

Visit: The Somerset Club

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

Initiation fee: $25,000 & Annual dues: $5,000

Visit: The Duquesne Club

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 membership.

Initiation fee: $25,000 & Annual dues: $5,000

Visit: The University Club of Washington, D.C.

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 the 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 allow public access and tours throughout its facilities.

Initiation fee: $20,000 & Annual dues: $4,000

Visit: Union League of Philadelphia

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, the 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. The California Club clubhouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to a very valuable art collection gathered throughout the club’s history.

Initiation fee: $25,000 & Annual dues: $5,000

Visit: The California Club

2. Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C. — It is said that a sure sign of someone’s success in Washington, D.C. is membership in the 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.

Initiation fee: $50,000 & Annual dues: $10,000

Visit: Cosmos Club

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 members after the beginning of the Civil War. This led to strife among the members, and some of them went on to form other clubs, like the Knickerbocker Club. The Union Club managed to recover from this setback and is currently considered the most exclusive private club in America.

Initiation fee: $50,000 & Annual dues: $10,000

Visit: The Union Club

As we conclude our exploration of these 11 exclusive private clubs across America, we are left with a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of history, tradition, and exclusivity that they represent. Each of these clubs, from the iconic Union Club of New York to the esteemed Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., has carved its unique niche in the world of privilege and sophistication. They serve as more than just meeting places; they are bastions of culture, tradition, and camaraderie.

While these clubs often come with substantial initiation fees and annual dues, they offer their members a world of luxury, networking opportunities, and a sense of belonging to an elite community. From supporting the arts to fostering connections among influential individuals, these clubs play a vital role in shaping the social fabric of their respective cities.

As we step outside the hallowed halls of these private clubs and return to the bustling world beyond, we carry with us a glimpse of the exclusivity and opulence that continue to define the American elite. These clubs, with their rich histories and enduring legacies, remind us that in a rapidly changing world, there are places where tradition, refinement, and the art of networking still reign supreme.

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