Club History

Saturday, February 27, 1875 was a momentous day in Providence, Rhode Island. On that evening, a group of fifteen gentlemen met at the South Main Street office of Edward D. Pearce, Jr., and signed a compact establishing themselves as a Club to be later christened, on May 18 of that year, the Hope Club. According to the compact, the initiation fee was to be twenty-five dollars and the annual dues the same amount.

Founding members included William Blodget, Edward Carrington, Thomas Dunnell, Robert Ives Gammell (first Vice-President of the Club), Colonel Charles Warren Lippitt, Clinton Mauran, William G. Nightingale, Arthur D. Payne (first Secretary of the Club), George M. Smith, Robert Grosvenor (first President of the Club), William Grosvenor, Jr., Howard O. Sturges (first Treasurer of the Club), Matthew Watson, and John Carter Brown Woods. Of the above gentlemen, Messrs. Pearce, Woods, Dunnell, Nightingale and Watson were members of the original governing body of the Club known as the Board of Direction.

There was a sixteenth member of the original group who signed the compact on February 27, 1875. Henry P. Bush served briefly as the Chairman of the Committee on Constitution, but he was ‘not elected” at a meeting held on June 14, 1875, having “failed to qualify” for presumably not having paid his initiation fee. During his brief initial membership, he distinguished himself by proposing a resolution prohibiting the sale of liquor at the Clubhouse. His motion was permanently tabled. Whether this contributed to his “non-election” is unknown.

The adoption of a Constitution took place only after a long and heated debate over proposed amendments and amendments to the amendments of almost every section of the draft originally submitted.

On February 8, 1876, the State of Rhode Island granted the Club a charter “for the purposes of social and literary culture” which marked the birth of the Club in its present form.

By 1883, membership in the Hope Club had grown and negotiations were opened with the estate of Dr. Abraham Okie to purchase his homestead at Six Benevolent Street at the site for a new clubhouse. The price was $27,000. On May 1, 1885, the purchase was completed. The Okie house was razed, and based on the architectural designs of Gould and Angell, at an estimated cost of $32,000, the construction of the present clubhouse began. Officially opened in November 1886, the four-story brick Victorian style structure is reputed to be the first clubhouse in America built for such a purpose.

In 1941, after questioning if he had been overcharged, a member received a cost breakdown of his bill:

12 oz. steak  $0.63
½ lb. of stewed fresh tomatoes(specially prepared)
A large thermos of coffee
2 rolls

In the accompanying correspondence, it was clearly stated that the steak price might seem a trifle high but the Hope Club dealt only in the best.

The preceding snippets of Hope Club history were borrowed from the work of Roger T. Clapp.

The Hope Club

A Centennial History