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The California Club
California Club 1.JPG
California Club is located in California
California Club
Location in California
Location 538 S Flower St, Los Angeles, California
Area Less than 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built 1929–1930
Architect Robert D. Farquhar
Architectural style Italian Renaissance Revival
NRHP reference No. 10000425
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 6, 2010

The California Club is a by-invitation members-only private club established in 1888 which is the second-oldest such club in Southern California. The club's clubhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

There is an old adage that goes "The people who run Los Angeles belong to The Jonathan Club; the people who own Los Angeles belong to The California Club." The membership is by invitation only. All new members must be invited by at least six existing members of the Club, and pass a series of interviews by the Club's Membership Committee, as well as background and reference checks.

The club has ranked #13 in the "Centrality Rankings" by G. William Domhoff in his book "Social clubs, policy-planning groups, and corporations: A network study of ruling-class cohesiveness" published in 2005, and it is one of the most exclusive private clubs in the U.S.

The clubhouse

In the late 1920s, purchase of land was negotiated with construction starting on the seven-story clubhouse in late 1928. The building was designed by Robert D. Farquhar, an architect trained at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris. The American Institute of Architects awarded Farquhar its Distinguished Honor Award for the design of the California Club building.

According to the National Park Service:

The structure is considered one of the most important buildings of the architect Robert D. Farquhar. Built in 1930, The Italian Renaissance Revival style building, with its setbacks and tower, was among the largest buildings in the immediate area when the site was chosen. Elements like the private forecourt, which partially shields the front entrance and first floor, provides the club with a sense of privacy and understated design.

The building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on July 6, 2010. The listing was featured in the National Park Service's weekly list of July 16, 2010.

In addition to fine antiques and handcrafted furniture, the clubhouse is decorated with a collection of Western-themed, plein air paintings by such American landscape painters as J. Bond Francisco, Elmer Wachtel, Franz A. Bischoff, George Kennedy Brandriff, William Wendt and Paul Lauritz.

Organizational history

The California Club was incorporated on December 24, 1888. The first organizational meeting was held September 24, 1887, "in Justice Austin's courtroom", with N. C. Coleman as chairman and H. T. DeWilson as secretary.

The constitution and bylaws of the Union Social Club, of San Francisco, was reported and accepted without any change by the body of gentlemen assembled. There was considerable discussion on the ... name of the club, and ... it was decided to call it the California Club, of Los Angeles. The section in the bylaws granting army and navy officers all the privileges of members upon half-rate caused considerable feeling among the members. Four votes were taken on the question, and at last it was decided to allow the bylaws to read as they have for twenty-five years in the Union Club.

The club's first location was in the second-floor rooms over the Tally-Ho Stables on the northwest corner of First and Fort (Broadway) streets,{{Cite where the Los Angeles County Law Library now stands. It moved to the Wilcox Building on the southeast corner of Second and Spring streets in 1895, occupying the two top floors, the fourth and fifth. The building was distinguished as the first in Los Angeles to have two elevators—one for the public and the other for members. The men's dining room, reading room, bar and lounge were on the top floor. On the floor below was the ladies' dining room.

The club remained at the Wilcox Building for ten years. Increased membership impelled the club to seek a new location in the southward and westward direction of the expansion of the city. In 1904 the club's headquarters were moved to a new five-story building with a basement and a roof garden on the northwest corner of Fifth and Hill streets. The current clubhouse was completed on August 25, 1930.

At various times in its history, the California Club was accused of discrimination against African Americans, Jews, and other minorities. In a vote taken in June 1987, 90 percent of the voting members favored admitting women. In addition, the Los Angeles City Council in May 1987 voted 12-0 to ban discriminatory practices at institutions in Los Angeles like the California Club. Since that time, the Club has maintained a non-discriminatory policy for admission to membership.

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