The original Engineers’ Club was organized in 1888 within the rooms of the ASCE clubhouse on East 23rd Street. During this time the engineering profession was becoming increasingly important to the industrial and economic development of the United States. While the city, by then, was well supplied with professional and trade associations related to engineering, The Engineers’ Club was the first purely social organization founded in the United States for engineers or those connected to the field.
The Engineers’ Club formally opened its doors on April 27, 1889, on West 29th Street. Among its founding members was President James A. Burden of the Burden Iron Works in Troy, New York, Vice Presidents Henry R. Towne of the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company and James C. Bayles of the Spiral Weld Tube Company, Treasurer A.C. Rand of the Rand Rock Drill Company, and Secretary David Williams, publisher of the Iron Age. Though located in New York, the club was in no sense local, embracing members from “all the States of the Union, as well as Canada and Mexico.” Initially there were two classes of members – resident and non-resident – though both had the same privileges.
While the club originally leased space in Midtown Manhattan, it began to plan for a larger, purpose-built clubhouse around the turn of the century, acquiring land facing Bryant Park and the future home of the New York Public Library (both New York City Landmarks). Around the same time, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offered the sum of $1 million for a separate project – the creation of a joint headquarters for New York City’s professional engineering clubs. In 1904, Carnegie increased the amount of his proffered gift to $1.5 million in order to incorporate the plans of The Engineers’ Club.
Ultimately, the decision was reached to erect two separate but related structures, allowing for a direct flow between them. The design of The Engineers’ Club building was determined by an architectural competition in which the young firm of Whitfield & King won over more established names such as Carrère & Hastings and Clinton & Russell. The 12-story Renaissance Revival style building, completed in 1907, featured a tripartite configuration consisting of a three-story base clad in white marble with prominent Corinthian pilasters, a seven-story red brick shaft embellished with marble quoins and molded window enframements, and a three-story capital capped by a deeply projecting modillioned cornice. An early example of the high-rise clubhouse building type, the Engineers’ Club building also featured 66 apartments in addition to its public and social spaces.
As would be spoken by President Arthur T. Hadley of Yale at the 1907 opening exercises for the completed Engineers’ Club building, “it is not enough to know the special sciences on which the practice of a profession is based. A man ought to have a clear conception of the public service which his profession can render, and the public duties that its members owe.”
For nearly six decades, The Engineers’ Club and The Engineering Societies’ buildings served as the epicenter of American engineering, with each establishment frequented by some of the world’s most renowned engineers and scientists. Among its most prominent members, The Engineers’ Club has counted Andrew Carnegie, President Herbert C. Hoover, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry Clay Frick, H.H. Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. Numerous national and international engineering conferences were held regularly in the buildings, with some of the country’s largest corporations as participants.
The Engineers’ Club occupied the West 40th Street building until 1979, at which point the structure was sold and converted into residential apartments. It’s now known as Bryant Park Place and continues to thrive as a co-operative apartment house. The building looks almost exactly as it did more than a century ago, standing as an architectural reminder of the emergence of New York City as the engineering center of the country and of the United States as an industrial and economic power. As the last remaining club building on the block, its also a visual reminder of the prominence of the social club and of the bachelor apartment at the turn of the 20th century.
During the 90’s The Engineers’ Club Inc. was resurrected in New Jersey with the intent to form golf and social outings for members of the engineering and construction community. The club held multiple events each year giving members opportunities to network and increase economic growth in the area.
In 2007, The Engineers’ Club building and the adjacent Engineering Societies’ building were jointly listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. A commemorative plaque celebrating the history of the building as the Engineers’ Club was placed to the left of the primary entrance of Bryant Park Place by the Co-op Board.
The integrity of The Engineers’ Club matters to all board members. During many deliberations on the future of the club, board members of The Engineers’ Club Inc. chose to divide the organization. The Engineers’ Club of New Jersey was created to pursue goals such as acquire more sponsorships, increase membership, affiliate with like-minded organizations, expand philanthropic efforts, and host higher quality events for attendees.
The Engineers’ Club of New Jersey was established in 2018 and is filed with the state of New Jersey as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(3). The Engineers’ Club of New Jersey holds the original spirit established in 1888 as a social club to connect Engineers’ of multiple principles and organizations. However, it is not the originally established fraternal organization and is only affiliated through common pursuits and aspirations.