The Players is a private social club formed to promote communication among artists and patrons of the arts. Modeled after London’s famed Garrick Club, The Players was the first American club of its kind.
Location: 16 Gramercy Park South
Architect: Stanford White
The Players was founded in 1888 by Edwin Booth, the widely-known American Shakespearean actor, along with 15 like-minded artists. Edwin Booth purchased the building and hired Stanford White, a club member and one of New York’s leading architects, to redesign it. Booth reserved an upper floor for his home, turning the rest of the building over to the Clubhouse. He lived in the house until his death in 1893. Incidentally, Edwin Booth’s younger brother John Wilkes Booth, also a thespian, was President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.
Besides Edwin Booth and Stanford White, the club had such prominent members as Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, John Barrymore, Eugene O’Neill, Gregory Peck, Walter Cronkite, Alexander Woollcott, Kevin Spacey, Sidney Poitier, Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Dick Cavett, Ethan Hawke, Peter O’Toole, and Roger Moore, among others.
As you can see, there are but a few female members and their names appear on the list quite late in the 20th century. This is because the Players had remained the only “man-only” club in the city until 1989.
In the 19th century, professional clubs became quite popular in the city. The longtime syndicated columnist Earl Wilson said in 1964: “Long ago a New Yorker asked the difference between the Lambs, Friars, and Players (all private clubs)… The Players are gentlemen trying to be actors, the Lambs are actors trying to be gentlemen, and the Friars are neither trying to be both.”
In 2013, it was revealed that the Players club is roughly $4 million in debt due to financial mismanagement. As a result, the private club, once only accessible to members, now rents rooms for parties and provides a location for film shoots.
The Players is located across from Gramercy Park, the only private park in the city closed to the general public. The statue in the middle of the park is that of Edwin Booth, who gets to gaze at his former home for eternity.