COMING up Summer street, Boston, from the South Terminal Station through that part of' the city which has risen Phoenix-like from its, ashes the resident as well as the stranger is impressed by the imposing building just completed on the corner of Kingston and Summer streets, known as the Merchants' Building. But probably very few out of the hundreds passing daily have any inkling of the peculiar interest centering there fo many of our best established and prominent merchants. The tenth and eleventh floors have all been leased for a term of ten years and are now occupied by the object of this article, the Trade Club.
In 1885 Mr. Frank B. Converse, of Converse & Co., South street, conceived the idea of having a business man's club where a few kindred spirits could be served with a quiet noon-day lunch while they discussed the important topics of the day After talking the subject over with a number of friends it was decided to form an organization under the laws of Massachusetts, limit the membership to fifty, and to this end the most, prominent merchants from the wholesale boot and shoe, leather and dry goods trades, together with a few bankers, were selected and the enterprise started. Rooms were engaged at the corner of Federal street and Milton place and fitted up in a most comfortable and homelike manner well suited to the tastes of the up-to-date members. Mr. Converse suggested the name of "The Trade Club" which it has always retained.
Mr. Thomas E. Proctor, the leading wholesale leather dealer of Boston was elected its first president.
Mr. Frank B. Converse, previously mentioned, was elected treasurer and clerk.
Mr. John C. Potter, of Potter, White & Bayley, wholesale boot and shoe dealers; Mr. Andrews G. Webster, of Webster & Co., leather dealers, and Mr. A. L.. Newman, president of the Commonwealth bank, were elected directors.
Mr. Edwin F. Sturgis. well known in hotel circles, was engaged to act as steward.
The chief aim of the members was to secure a certain amount of retirement and quiet rest, during their noon hour, meeting those whose ideas and tastes were in harmony, and to sit down to a well prepared meal, selected from the best the market afforded, served in a clean home-like manner and at a reasonable price. In all this they were very fortunate and the club was a success from the start. Catering to a man's appetite is something like caging a lion--a very dangerous undertaking when attempted by a novice, but not at all difficult if carried out with neatness and dispatch by an expert. The club has always been successful in securing experts.
In 1890 it was decided that the interests of the members could be better served by increasing tha membership to 150 and engaging larger quarters, hence the move to 116 Bedford street, where they remained until the beginning of the present year. The Shoe and Leather Association building was new then and the club leased one-half of the top floor, covering a space of about 4000 square feet, which they divided to suit their needs. They had two large dining rooms with a seating capacity of about eighty each, one large room for ladies that could accommodate twenty-four, a private room where a party of ten or fifteen could eat and be merry, then a good sized smoking room, an office, coat room and toilet rooms. The kitchen was on the floor below.
A good many changes wore made during the club's stay at 116 Bedford street. The first boar.l of officers retired. Mr. H. W. Wadleigh, wholesale leather dealer, 241 Congress street, coming in as second president. He was followed by Mr. Franlc B. Converse, who served one year.
About this time the club gave a banquet in recognition of the faithful services of Mr. Wadleigh and Mr. Converse. This occasion still clings to the minds of those members and their friends who were present as making one of the most pleasing epochs in the history of the club.
When Mr. Converse retired, Mr. Amos W. Downing, of Haverhill, wholesale leather dealer, on High street, came in as president, and served the club for two years.
Then Mr. Geo. A. Alden, of Geo. A. Alden & Co., took the chair for two years, when Mr. Geo. Fred Winch, of Winch Bros., wholesale boot and shoe dealers, served the club until 1901, when its present president, was chosen, Mr. W. L. Terhune, publisher of the "Boot and Shoe Recorder."
When the club moved to 116 Bedford street, Mr. Sturgis resigned as steward, and Mr. Joseph Lee was engaged to take his place. Mr. Lee's record as caterer and hotel man assured the club that the kitchen department would be well taken care of. Mr. Lee was well known to the public as proprietor of that famous hostelry in Auburndale, "the Woodland Park Hotel." Mr. Lee remained with the club until 1893 when he retired, and the present steward was engaged, Mr. John M. Burrell.
While this club is distinctly a business man's club still it is generally conceded that the members made their best move when they decidcd to make accommodations for the ladies, making it possible for a member to have the pleasure of the company of his lady friends when they should be in town and desire a "T.C." dinner, as it is called by some. This abbreviation was suggested by the bold handsome monogram decorating the china and silver, also interwoven in the linen.
The club entered its present quarters with the following staff:
President, W. L. Terhune, publisher, 11 Columbia street.
Vice-president, M. N. Smith, of Smith, Patterson & Co., jewelers, 52 Summer street.
Secretary and treasurer. William N. Swain, attorney at law, 101 Tremont street.
Directors, W. F. Kimball, wholesale leather, 53 Lincoln street; A. C. Farley, Farley, Harvey & Co., wholesale dry goods, 141 Essex street; Ephraim Stearns, of Blake & Stearns, wholesale woolens, 87 Summer street; C. P. Gaither, New England Agent Norfolk & Western R. R., 112 Summer street.
To the energy, good judgment and taste of these gentlemen the club is largely indebted for its present comfortable and pleasing environment.
Situated on the corner of the street and being so many stories higher than any of the surrounding buildings one is able to enjoy an unobstructed view from either side of the rooms which overlook all of Boston and afford a view far down the harbor. While enjoying cigars and coffee after lunch the soothing influence of the cool breeze and the beauties of the harbor views will woo many a captain of industry to forget his cares and tarry longer than usual.
On the eleventh floor of the building is the main dining room for the members. It extends the entire frontage, fifty feet on Summer street and seventy-five on Kingston street, lighted with twenty-two large windows, with a seating capacity of 200. The room is finished in high panelled dark Flemish woodwork with orange tinted walls. The window hangings are a fiat, dark blue valance outlined with blue and gold metal braid, beneath which are hung beautiful Arabian lace curtains. The portieres are of dark blue velour with the club monogram artistically embroidered in gold. The chairs, especially designed and manufactured for the club, together with the quartered oak floor, complete the artist's conception of an ideal Dutch room. Adjoining this room are the coat room, toilet room, three elevators and the smoking room.
Entering here on the west side of the building overlooking Back Bay, is a room In by 20, panelled in mahogany with green tinted walls. Green and silver tapestry hang from ceiling to floor, with portieres of the same material and finish. A mahogany writing table stands upon the elegant rug occupying the centre of the oak floor. Inviting leather covered furniture scattered liberally about, suggests a wealth of ease and comfort.
A most dainty retreat for the favored fair one who may be allowed to enter and rest after a wearisome morning shopping, while she orders and enjoys the choice viands prepared by one of Boston's best chefs. The; room faces twenty-five feet on Summer street and thirty feet on Kingston, and will accommodate twenty-five or thirty couples. It is finished in white enamel panel, empire red walls and soft tinted ceiling. The window draperies are a combination of valance and festoon of green silk velour. The over drapery is of green silk damask with green and gold braid under which are gracefully draped lace curtains of empire design. At the entrance hang silk velour portieres to match window draperies; lined on the hall side with gold tapestry. A beautiful two toned green Wilton carpet made to match the general empire effect covers the floor. Adjoining this is a reception room and two private dining rooms twelve feet square where small parties can be entertained. These rooms are finished in white enamel and empire red walls, the draperies being of Titian velour with gold empire design embroidery and Arabian lace curtains. This floor is also provided with coat and toilet, rooms.
The remainder of the tenth floor is given over to the chef and his crew of assistants. This large, airy, well lighted room is the scene of much activity between tbe hours of 12 noon and 3 P. M. Every modern convenience is at hand and all the dainties of the market in season and out of season arc provided and though often perplexed this chef, who is past master in the culinary department, has never failed t.o serve a repast that has defied the captious-ness of the most fastidious. Every member or visitor to this club declares the table d'hote r,o be the best, price considered, served in Boston.
The members of this club well merit the title they bear of being a jolly, hospitable crowd, and thousands of visitors have enjoyed the pleasure of this noon-day retreat, many of them being distinguished in literature, politics and war. The limit of the membership is 400 active and 50 non-resident. The entrance fee is $25.00 and the annual dues $30.00 payable in quarterly payments of $7.50 each. For non-resident, one-half of the above prices.
Tbe Trade Club is fortunate in continuing to have the efficient services of its well-known steward Mr. John M. Burrell, who is doing everything possible to make this department attractive to the varied tastes of the members. Mr. Burrell is always ready to receive practical suggestions for changes and improvements in the menu.
Mr. Oliver R. Crump in charge of the coat room and general assistant, which position he has occupied for many years, is well known to every member and his pleasant and courteous manner is one of the attractions of the club.
The various head-waiters and others employed in various positions required in so largo a dining club need no further mention, as they are always attentive to the wants of the members.
1. "The Trade Club: Its Origin, Growth and Present Status", Written and Compiled by Mr. Frank B. Homans, 1903 Year Book of The Trade Club, Boston, pages 5-19.
See AlsoBoston Trade Club 1903 Year Book