Murray Hill: Union League Club
Stuyvesant Town Apartments are located near several sites of historical significance in the Murray Hill neighborhood. One of the most understated, yet interesting, of these is the Union League Club of New York. This social club was founded in 1863 and has a rich history and a membership list which includes leaders of business, government leaders, federal judges, and United States Presidents. Here is a brief history of the Union League Club of New York.
The Union League Club of New York was founded on February 6th, 1863. The Union League Club was founded due to the national tensions at the time. Due to the Civil War there was much divided opinion between the various social classes on supporting the war. The founders of the Union League Club were pro Union and founded their association on the basis of country loyalty. The founders were Frederick Law Olmsted, Henry Whitney Bellows, George Templeton Strong, and Oliver Wolcott Gibbs who were well accomplished intellectuals and professionals in their fields. Growing out of a political movement they sought to recruit the wealthy and educated of the upper classes. They felt this would not only allow for the club’s growth and survival but also for the education of the future leaders of the upper class.
Politically they were strongly pro Union as a strong government supported the contracts, tariffs, and infrastructure that their businesses needed for continued success. The wealthy also owned much of the war debt and were financially tied to the result of the Civil War.
Involvement in the Civil War
The Union League Club saw its first meeting on March 20th, 1863 and elected their first president Robert Bowne Minturn the shipping firm mogul. The New York Draft Riots would break out on July 13th, 1863 and during the riots (despite being a target) armed guards and barricades kept the clubhouse on East 17th Street safe. In response to the war in February 1864 they would form the 20th U.S. Colored Infantry on Riker’s Island and march with the soldiers following their training to see them off for duty, in doing so club members ignored numerous threats to their safety.
During Reconstruction Union Leagues would open all over the southern states.They would assist the newly freed slaves in registering to vote. They also assisted in ending workplace segregation and promoting civil works projects.
Post War Activities
Following the Civil War the Union League Club dedicated themselves to fair and just government and civil improvement projects. Important projects included assisting in the funding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and aiding in the construction of Grant’s Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. They would also sponsor the legendary 369th Infantry Regiment the Harlem Hellfighters during WWI.
Membership in the league was always based on a spirit of serving the public and clean government. Formerly a male only club this changed in 1986 with the admission of the Ambassador to Switzerland Faith Whittlesey. Since then women serve on many of the league’s committees in prominent roles.
Other notable members include New York Governor Charles S. Whitman, Neil Armstrong, members of the Morgan banking family, Margaret Thatcher, Sandra Day O'Connor,Antonin Scalia, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
As a resident of Stuyvesant Town which is close to Murray Hill Apartments you will live in one of the most historically significant areas in Manhattan. Learning about its history and contributions of American society only adds to the beauty of the area.