The new additions to the Harvard Club of New York, just finished, offer an interesting example of the ideas outlined above. In this case, moreover, the situation was further complicated because these were the second set of such additions carried out by the club since it moved to the present site on Forty-fourth Street.
The first building was a charming little bit of domestic architecture, completed in 1894, which, with its low three-storied front, was regarded as one of the minor masterpieces of Mr. Charles W. McKim. In 1905 the club increased its quarters, the most notable addition being the wellknown Harvard Hall, a great three-storied hall extending to Forty-fifth Street. With beamed ceiling, high oak paneled wainscot, and stone wall above, the room was originally intended for a lounging room. This function it now fulfills, though heretofore it has served as a dining hall.
The second enlargement of the building practically doubles the facilities of the club as they existed after the first enlargement, and provides, in addition, a swimming tank. The extension occupies two lots on Forty-fifth Street and one on Forty-fourth Street, adjoining the club.
|***First Floor Plan***|
|***Second Floor Plan***|
|***Third Floor Plan***|
Above, on the third floor, there are a simple billiard room, a large room for meetings, class dinners, etc., over the dining room, and an interesting addition to the card room. In this card room again, we notice another clever bit of planning. It has been made T-shaped in plan, by opening a large square bay into the new addition. Besides adding more light, the room is made more attractive through the unusual shape resulting from this change.
With the fourth and fifth floors given over to bedrooms, the sixth floor to dressing, locker rooms, barber shops, etc., for the swimming pool and squash courts, we complete the description of the plan.
|NORTH ELEVATION ON FORTY-FIFTH STREET - HARVARD CLUB NEW YORK - McKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|FORTY-FOURTH STREET FRONT - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|FORTY-FIFTH STREET(REAR) ELEVATION - HARVARD CLUB NEW YORK - McKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
Coming now to the interior details of the Harvard Club, the plunge and the new dining hall are well worth careful study. for so excellent are they, each in a different way, that they may well be said to take high rank in contemporary architecture.
As will be seen from the drawings, the plunge is placed on the very top of the building to derive the full advantage of light and air. It is this fine situation, as well as its interesting arrangement and architectural treatment, that makes the Harvard Club plunge so successful. The average pool in clubs, gymnasiums, and Y. M. C. A. buildings is usually subterranean, ill lighted and ventilated, and certainly most uninteresting architecturally. It is usually as utilitarian as the barber shop. But the Harvard Club pool, while extremely simple, impresses one as a most genial, cheerful, pleasant sort of place, where one likes to linger and enjoy the lingering as much as the swim.
|SOLARIUM, WITH VISTA INTO PLUNGE - HARVARD CLUB NEW YORK - McKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS. .|
|THE PLUNGE - HARVARD CLUB NEW YORK - McKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
The side of the pool itself is formed of small inch squares of white mosaic, with dark green bands. To set off this delicate color, which might tend otherwise to be insipid, there are little hedges of bay trees, set in the recesses of the casement windows.
|PLAN AND SECTION OF PLUNGE AND SOLARIUM LOOKING WEST - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|END ELEVATION OF PLUNGE - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK.|
|ENTRANCE ELEVATION OF PLUNGE, SHOWING SIDE ENTRANCES TO SHOWERS - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK.|
|SOUTH ELEVATION OF SOLARIUM, SHOWING ENTRANCE INTO PLUNGE HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK.|
Quite different from the graceful cozy plunge is the great new dining hall on the ground floor. Its bold fine treatment, its virile character, its rich striking color express admirably its purpose - a dining hall in a club with Harvard traditions in the background.
One can see at a glance that the architectural antecedents of the room are the old English halls, yet the treatment is original, the detail is free, and the adaptation is in no way slavish or mechanical. And, fortunately, the latest catchword in art-advertising cannot be applied to it. This hall is not a "period" room.
There is another virtue in this room. I have spoken of its bold treatment. A great vice that is creeping into Amcrican architecture of interiors today is an exaggeration of tiny details. Mouldings are multiplied until they become liny and disturbing. Every little, plain surface is paneled in most tiresome fashion. It is as if draughtsmen had come to hate a white spot on a piece of paper, or a blank space on a wall, and to feel obliged to cover every bit of their drawings with something, preferably mere lines. As a result, the architecture as executed is endlessly tricked out, fussy and finicky - mere virtuosity. The precious contrast of broad plane surfaces against moulded surfaces is lost, there is no restfulness anywhere. This architectural nervousness, this over-working of the pencil, usually goes hand in hand with dislike of the brush. Such work is usually very weak in color, whereas color is the one thing that would save it, if anything could save it. The classic examples which are elaborately wrought in form, are usually rich in color, which at once clothes the form and enlivens it. For instance, the exuberantly rich ceilings of the Vecchio Palace in Florence would seem very heavy - as if they would fall on our heads -were they not colored with all the hues of earth and heaven to lighten them and to hold them up in place. Some years ago, I worked in an office where the head draughtsman was slightly under this evil influence. He called it "modern academic feeling." It may be academic, but it is certainly not modern, and has no real feeling. Though this affectation of extreme elegance and artificiality is often found in New York, the best New York work is free from this vice, as in the case of the Harvard Club we are considering. It would be well, perhaps, to devise a label for this "modern academic feeling" which could be quickly applied to sufferers as a warning, much as boards of health paste saffron scarlet fever signs on front doors.
|***MAIN DINING ROOM PLAN AT FIRST FLOOR***|
|ALCOVE IN HARVARD HALL - OLDER PORTION OF HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|***WEST ELEVATION - MAIN DINING ROOM***|
|DETAIL OF PLASTER CEILING IN DINING HALL - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|VIEW IN GALLERY OF DINING HALL - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|VIEW TOWARDS ENTRANCE OF DINING ROOM - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|DINING HALL - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
|DINING HALL, FORTY-FIFTH STREET END - HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK. McKlM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECTS.|
The description of the dining-room would not be complete without a brief notice of the admirable color scheme. The stone work is light gray, the ceiling a rich cream yellow, while the oak wood work was finished a very light, almost yellow color, with the knowledge that it will darken considerably in time. The gallery walls are a deep Pompeian sort of red, which seems a little strong in the evening perhaps, but which will take its proper place as the wood work grows darker and as other color notes are brought into the scheme - the tapestries, portraits, trophies, game heads, and the permanent lighting fixtures, replacing the present ones. It will be several years before this great room will really be completed to reach its full beauty. Such a work can rarely be finished all at once, and when it is, it is apt to look like a stage setting or a show window.
Thus, so far as the dining hall is concerned, this description is written about five years too soon, but time and publication wait for no man.
Ten years later, in 1925, the Clubhouse was in need of expansion yet again. However, the Club had no land on which to build. Negotiations for the adjacent property at 33 West 44th Street were reinstated and continued for the next six years. But by the time the property was finally transferred to the Club, the Great Depression had begun. The Club had to tighten its belt. Then came World War II and material shortages; dreams of expansion were tabled for the duration. But while the Clubhouse was stuck at its 1915 size, membership was not. During World War II, the demand for bedrooms was so great, the Club sacrificed the Plunge, flooring over the pool to create dormitory space where members could rent a cot for the night.
After the war, veterans, taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, began to flood Harvard and other universities. The Club realized that membership would continue to grow. Yet there were still several problems to be solved. The Club did not have a large budget for expansion. On the other hand, it did own the adjacent property at 33 West 44th Street, purchased in 1931. It was thought that it might be possible to expand the Clubhouse into the adjacent building at a relatively low cost. Alas, with the exception of the first floor, the floors of the five-story structure were not aligned with those of the Clubhouse. Worse, the top three floors were constructed of combustible materials and legally could not be used for clubrooms. The solution: tear down the three upper floors and remodel the lower two. The facade of the building was remodeled by a little-known architect who was a member of the Club. The design of the facade, a conscious effort to imitate McKim's Neo-Georgian style, is generally conceded to be uninspired and unsucessful. The two floors of the small building provided a few additional facilities – some staff offices, an extension to the Ladies' Dining Room (now the Cambridge Rooms), a men's restroom, and the present Main Bar.
Today, the Clubhouse remains on West 44th Street. ***Lifted from the clubs website***