The Colony Club as seen on Gossip Girl


Larry Fink, Russian Ball, Colony Club, New York City, 1977, via MoMA

Blair’s maid, Darota via WoodyCakes

On tonight’s episode of Gossip Girl, Blair throws a little party for members of the exclusive women’s social group, The Colony Club, in an attempt to gain entrance.  Her guests turn out to be a bunch of stodgy, petty, argyle-clad bitches who insist that Serena’s family and Chuck Bass are not to be associated with because of tabloid mentions, skimpy outfits, and nouveau-richeness.  In a display of strong character, Blair eventually totally disses them by ending the party and proclaiming the greatness of Serena and her mother, and her close association with Chuck Bass.

Which reminds me that I once picked up a copy of “The History of the Colony Club” at the Strand- I knew it would come in handy at some point- and my room happens to be clean enough so that I was able to locate it right away.

The book mostly consists of one page and portrait painting of each of the Colony Club’s past president’s from 1903-1984, when the book was published, and proud news of improvements, renovations, and the inner workings of the club – it’s quite mundane reading for an outsider.

What I really want to know is are today’s members at all like those portrayed on Gossip Girl?

The Colony Club has no public website or public listing of current members so I will try to piece together a fragmented description from any interesting tidbits I can find, of what this club was/does/is.

First some background info from Wikipedia.

THE COLONY CLUB

  • The Colony Club was the first social club in New York City started by women for women.
  • Founded by Florence “Daisy” Jaffray Harriman, Ava Lowle Willing (then Mrs. John Jacob Astor IV) and Helen Hay (Mrs. Payne) Whitney in 1903, it was modeled after male social clubs.
  • First clubhouse was at 120 Madison Avenue between 30th and 31st Streets.
  • Second clubhouse, 1916-present, 564 Park Avenue/51 East 62nd Street designed by Delano and Aldrich

FOUNDERS OF THE COLONY CLUB

  • Florence Harriman was born into a wealthy family.  She seems to have been a remarkably active woman- she helped to expose harsh working conditions in New York City workplaces, unhealthy conditions in tenemants, was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, participated in the Versailles Peace Conference, was appointed the United States Minister to Norway by FDR in 1937, and at age 84 led a parade in Washington DC to protest “taxation without participation.”  She wrote “From Pinafores to Politics” (1923) and “Mission to the North” (1941).  All this among many other accomplishments!
  • Helen Julia Hay (Mrs. Payne) Whitney was a poet whose poems were published in Harper’s Magazine.  She also bred horses at her Greentree Stable in Manhasset, NY and in various years her horses won the American Grand National Steeplechase, the Kentucky Derby, and the Belmont Stakes.  She married Payne Whitney in 1902 and the couple built a home at 972 Fifth Avenue which is now the French Embassy.  Her father, John Milton Hay, served as U.S. Embassador to Britain and United States Secretary of State.
  • Ava Lowle Willing – married John Jacob Astor IV and later Thomas Lister, the 4th Baron of Ribblesdale.

From the book:
Here are some tidbits from the book that give some idea of what the club has been up to.

  • In 1975 The Colony Club introduced the Honorary Visitors Committee – to be helpful to wives of diplomats and UN members.
  • A Card Committee in the 70’s gave lessons to all levels of brdige players.
  • There was a Hairdressing Department and a Gift Boutique
  • Colony Club Members could pay a small extra fee to join the club’s lending library, run on the honor system.
  • In 1978 to celebrate its 75th Anniversary, the club put on a Fashion Revue or pageant to tell its histories and stories, using clothing dating back to the turn of the century, donated by members.  It is implied that some of these items of clothing were then donated to the Met Museum’s Costume Institute.

Other stuff:

  • The Colony Club’s restaurant had 3 violations at it’s last inspection on June 13, 2008, but apparently this is not a lot.
  • The Colony Club has hosted weddings, booksignings, lectures, balls…
  • The Colony Club will host a stop on Christopher Dickey‘s book tour for ‘Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force – The NYPD’ February 19, 2009, 6:15pm

That’s all I can handle for now, but would be grateful for any further input via the comments section.  What do you know?  Has the Colony Club degenerated into an outmoded clique?  Or do they (still?) do meaningful stuff?

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Author: rebs

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5 thoughts on “The Colony Club as seen on Gossip Girl”

  1. Looking at a catalogue of Portraits of children of members that were painting by American artists 1916

  2. Thanks for posting the info. I am currently working to make my tours about strong historical women who made a difference in NYC. It’ll be nice to look more at members, but I am happy with F. Harriman, for now.

  3. I’m just reading “The Last Mrs. Astor” (Brooke, #3 and final John Jacob Astor wife) by Frances Kiernan, and Brooke got along splendidly with the first, Ava, one of the founders of The Colony Club.

  4. Hi, I’m an historian writing about a member of the Colony Club in 1920 and this books sounds fabulous but I can only find a copy for $45 on amazon- too steep for this academic, especially given that I cannot find exact information on what the book contains and does not contain. Could you tell me if it has membership lists or not?

  5. Hello, I went to NYC for my cousin’s wedding in April 2013. We attended the rehearsal dinner at The Colony Club (which I just figured out). It was gorgeous inside. Now, I knew next to nothing about the city before and while I was in New York. When I got home, I would occasionally look up places and things I saw there. Anyway, I found a “CC” napkin in my purse from the party. It took me quite a while to figure out where I had been!! New York was overwhelming for me, to say the least. My hotel room overlooked Lincoln Center, which is where the wedding reception was held. I was clueless! New York was amazing, I only wish I had been more aware of the high society event I was attending! Of course I was told my cousin was marrying the daughter of a millionaire. But not til I got home did I actually realize what a privilege it was to be there. I don’t know who The Colony Club member was, probably a member of the bride’s (Hill) family. (Yes, I’m fully aware now who Mr. Hill, the bride’s father, is)

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