November 14, 2018

Princeton’s Eating Clubs To Be Open for Tours

PRINCETON EATING CLUBS OPEN HOUSES: The Cottage Club is one of many Princeton University eating clubs that will be open to visitors for free, self-guided tours on Sunday, November 18 and Sunday, December 2. Hours are 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on both days. For more information, visit (Photo by Clifford Zink)

By Anne Levin

If you have always wondered what is inside the Princeton University eating clubs that line both sides of Prospect Avenue, two upcoming dates are your chance to explore. The Princeton Prospect Foundation (PPF) is offering free access to several of the stately buildings, free of charge, for self-guided tours.

On Sunday, November 18, Cannon, Colonial, Ivy, Quadrangle, and Tower clubs will be open. Then on December 2, Cap & Gown, Charter, Cottage, and Terrace clubs, plus Cloister and Tiger inns, will invite visitors inside. Hours are 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. both days.

Last year, the PPF published The Princeton Eating Clubs, a vividly illustrated book by historian Clifford Zink detailing the history, evolution, and architecture of these distinctive buildings. In a Town Topics story last December, Zink said, “The clubs themselves are superb examples of the architecture of the period. They are in a remarkable state of preservation. Most are over 100 years old. The care that has been taken on the interiors and exteriors is remarkable.”

The eating clubs are part of the Princeton Historic District, which was established in 1975 and consists of 64 buildings. The Princeton Prospect Foundation is a charitable entity that oversees donations to the clubs from alumni to upgrade and protect their architectural integrity and historical significance.

More than 20 different eating clubs have been established at Princeton since 1879. There are currently 11, 10 of which are on Prospect Avenue. The clubs have been co-ed since the early 1990s. “They were all built between the 1890s and the turn of the century, which was the greatest period of growth and prosperity in American history,” Zink said. “That provided the financial resources.”

Many of the clubs were designed by prominent architects of the period: McKim, Mead and White; Cope and Stewardson; and Raleigh Gildersleeve (who also designed Drumthwacket, now the New Jersey governor’s mansion). Zink pointed out that several contemporary local architects, including J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder), Michael Mills, Michael Farewell, Michael Mostoller, and John Hatch, have done additions or renovations to the buildings.

The clubs occupied multiple houses before the buildings they occupy today. “A lot of these were former professors’ houses. They were moved multiple times,” Zink said. “It became ‘musical clubhouses.’”

The interiors of the clubs are ornate, for the most part. Some have original furniture and hand-wrought lighting fixtures. “When you think that a century of undergraduates have passed through these buildings, it’s even more amazing to see the condition they are in,” Zink said. “Tiger Inn still has reproduction Elizabethan furniture bought in 1895 in Chelsea, England, by the mother of two undergraduates.”

For more information about the tours, visit