IN THE fall of 1880, a few young men of Lynn, wishing to form a Club, chose a committee to find quarters and report at a following meeting.
The committee reported that rooms could be procured on Oxford Street. It was at once voted to engage these rooms, and to name the new organization the Oxford Club.
Shortly after this action, it was ascertained that the Club could secure a more suitable room in the Rank Building on Exchange Street. It was determined to take such room; and while, therefore, the proposed quarters on Oxford Street were never occupied, the name Oxford Club was retained. One pool table, one billiard table, a few chairs and a card table were purchased, and the young Club entered into its first home on Exchange Street, with a membership of fourteen, limited to twenty. This limit was very soon reached.
Previous to and during the Civil War there had existed in Lynn an association composed of many of its prominent citizens, and generally known as the "Bear Garden." In 1881, at the close of its first year's existence, the young Club received a communication from the older organization, which had then sought to drop its harsher name by taking the name of the "Central Club."
This communication contained the suggestion of consolidation. Each Club accordingly appointed a committee, and, after a full conference, it was decided to unite the two interests.
January 16, 1882, the consolidated Club held its first meeting, and voted to retain the name of Oxford Club. Mr. Thomas Stacey was elected its first President. The new organization, with its thirty-four members, thus brought together, contained just the right material for a successful club. The young men who had been members of the original Oxford Club, having seen nothing but prosperity since they had organized, were ambitious and progressive. They were not satisfied with one room. They were alive with projects of enlargement. On the other hand the older members who had composed the "Bear Garden," or "Central Club," and who had for many years been having a hard time to keep "above water" in their club life, were disposed to be conservative and cautious. They continually upheld the wisdom of going slowly. It was not long before there was a struggle for the ascendency between this conservatism of the older members and the ambitious energy which dominated the younger men. It is a matter of congratulation that it was the latter which prevailed.
As the members of the Oxford Club of today look back to that time, they can readily understand with what feelings of scepticism and dismay those who had been members of the "Central Club" encountered the suggestion that another room be added to the quarters of the new Club, and that it be fitted up at an expense of $400.
The young men had the votes, the proposition was carried, and its execution proved to be anything but a mistake. March 15, 1882, the Club had its first house-warming, and received its friends to the number of 300. With this reception a new era in the club life of Lynn was inaugurated. Such a thing as a club, where members could receive ladies, had before this time been unheard of in our city. It is to this broad and civilizing policy then begun and continued to the present time, more than to anything else, that the great succcss of the Oxford Club is to be attributed.
At the annual meeting in January, 1883, Mr. Quincy A. Towns was elected President, holding the office for two years. According to the records read at that meeting, the Club had gained during the year just closed thirty-two members, making a total membership of sixty-six. In 1884 the Club, which was still rapidly growing, secured additional rooms and entered upon a wider field of usefulness. It was during that year that the first charity ball was given under the auspices of the Club.
In January, 1885, Mr. John Macnair was elected President, being re-elected in 1886. During his administration the membership was increased from 200 to 325. It was a period of a great awakening of interest in the affairs of the Club. The whole community had begun to feel its presence. The entire second floor of the Bank Building was leased, remodeled, finely furnished and decorated, and with the third floor previously occupied, the Club now had ample and beautiful quarters. The new rooms were formally opened to members and friends May 19, 1885.
In 1887 Mr. Josiah C. Bennett was elected President, but declined to serve, and at a special election held on February 2, 1887, Mr. Eugene Barry was chosen President. During the next year a library, which had been barely established, was greatly increased by the funds of the Club, and by gifts of books, until it contained many choice and valuable works. It was in June of this year that the By-Laws were amended by the substitution of October for January as the date for the annual election. Mr. Eugene Barry was re-elected President in October, 1887.
In 1889 and 1890, under the presidency of Capt. James P. Martin, the prosperity of the Club was maintained and increased. November 26, 1889, occurred the great fire, which destroyed the home of the Club and the entire building, of which it was a part. Nothing was saved of all the possessions of the Club except a few pictures and some odd pieces of furniture. The fire left the Club practically nothing in the way of property, except $5,000 in cash, the proceeds of its fire insurance. But the pride and spirit of the Club, and the interest and loyalty of its members, came out of the fire undiminished, if not increased.
On February 5, 1890, the old Mechanics Bank Building on Broad Street was leased, fitted up for a temporary home, and made as comfortable as the condition of the ancient building would allow. Here the Club remained until the opening of its present club house, which it built for itself. May 12, 1890, Articles of Incorporation under the broad seal of the Commonwealth were obtained, and August 20, 1890. the present site of the club house was purchased by the new corporation, "THE OXFORD CLUB."
At the annual meeting held on the first Wednesday of October, 1890, Mr. Benjamin N. Johnson was elected President, holding the office for three years. The present club house was built during his administration, and was opened May 14, 1892, by a reception to the members. At the close of his term of office the membership limit of 450 had been reached.
In 1893 Mr. John S. Bartlett was chosen President, and was re-elected in 1894.
Mr. Frank Keene was elected President in 1895, and served two terms. It was during the closing month of this second administration of Mr. Keene that the fire in the club house occurred, Friday, October 1, 1897, but, by the strenuous efforts of our efficient fire department, without serious loss.
In 1897 Mr. David H. Sweetser was chosen President, and was re-elected in 1898.
In 1899 Mr. William Henry Keene was elected President of the Club, and was re-elected in 1900.
In 1901 Mr. George F. Lord was elected President, and was re-elected in 1902.
In 1903 Mr. Charles H. Hastings was elected President, and was re-elected in 1904.
At a special meeting of the Club, held May 25, 1903, it was voted to redeem the first mortgage bonds outstanding on July 1, 1903, the amount being $30,000, and to refund the Club debt. In conformity with this vote the Board of Directors executed a mortgage for $20,000 on the real estate of the Club, and issued four notes of $2,500 each, payable in one, two, three and four years.
In 1905 Mr. Charles E. Harwoocl was elected President, and was re-elected in 1906.
In 1907 Mr. Arthur W. Pinkham was elected President and was re-elected in 1908.
The Oxford Club has, from its inception, been a large factor in promoting the charities of Lynn. As before stated, the first Charity Ball was given in 1884, and annually, with few exceptions, something has been done to raise money for charitable purposes.
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