St. Botolph Club Crest

History


The St. Botolph Club was founded in 1880, a golden period in Boston, a time when art, literature, music, architecture, clubs and public affairs were all in bloom.

Many of the eminent individuals in these fields were original members of our Club. As one of our Club historians has put it, "all the stars of the morning, the very early morning, sang together."

Under the temporary chairmanship of John Quincy Adams, the name of St. Botolph Club was chosen, after the VIIth century abbot around whose monastery in the fens of East Anglia Botolph's Town, later corrupted to Boston, sprang up. Botolph became patron saint of Boston, England and his spirit latterly migrated to the new city in Puritan New England. He was known for his kindly spirit and good humor, attributes we continue to celebrate.

The Club's first members were a diverse lot. Some were luminaries of letters, such as William Dean Howells and John Boyle O'Reilly. There was Henry Cabot Lodge, then better known as author and editor than for his political career; publishers Henry Houghton and George Mifflin, editors/writers John Bartlett and the many-faceted Edward Henry Clement. Artists there were then and later: Frank Hill Smith and John Singer Sargent, whose famous portrait of Mrs. Gardner was exhibited at the Club amid some stir; Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the Abraham Lincoln statue. H.H. Richardson was among the architects; even the clergy were represented by the enthusiastic Phillips Brooks, though we lost a great preacher Edward Everett Hale who withdrew to find "more congenial company" when the Club (providentially) refused the W.C.T.U.'s request that we embrace teetotalism. Men of affairs were there: Henry Lee Higginson, Leverett Saltonstall, and James Storrow; for Academia there were Charles W. Eliot of Harvard and the great historian, Francis Parkman who became our first president.

The Club fervently espoused the Impressionists during their wars with the Academy, culminating in the famous exhibits of the work of Claude Monet, many of whose paintings were loaned by Club members. Sunday afternoons were beguiled away with quartets from the Boston Symphony. Periodic Club Nights continue to provide forums for intellectual and social, as well as cultural exchanges.

After some further contemplation, and under inspired leadership, women were invited in 1988, and have brought their enlivening influences on the house and company ever since, to our great rejoicing. Since that time the Club has waxed fruitful with much membership participation in our programs: the book group, mini club nights, Monday lunches and the like, remembering always that beyond being theatre, gallery, restaurant, and concert hall, we are a club, as our constitution proclaims, "for the purpose of promoting social intercourse among persons connected with, or interested in the arts, humanities and sciences," all under the kindly influence of the good Saint Botolph.

Saint Botolph Club
199 Commonwealth Avenue • Boston, Massachusetts 02116
(617)536-7570 • info@stbotolphclub.org