21st December 2020

Athenaeum Club, Melbourne

No backmark.

The Athenaeum Club was founded in May 1868, making it the second oldest in Melbourne, as a meeting place for “the purpose of providing a suitable place of resort for gentlemen belonging to the various professions, the civil service, and those connected with trade and commerce, who are recognised as having literary, artistic, or scientific tastes, or who may be otherwise considered eligible as members of such an association”.  The club was joined by men who shared scientific and literary interests . There were evenings devoted to music, literature and science. It was first owned by entrepreneur J.G. Knight. The club’s earliest house was at 26-28 Collins Street East, the second, from 1891, at 290-292 Collins Street.

State Library Vic # H39357/46, Architect’s drawing of New Athenaeum Club, 1886-7.

The third and present site, from 1930, is at 83-87 Collins Street. The new building included a swimming pool, squash courts, hairdressing salon, gymnasium and masseurs room, billiard room, card rooms, bars, dining rooms and accommodation. The top floor was for servants quarters. Presumably it was these servants who wore uniforms with these buttons.

The Age (Melbourne), 14th June 1930 page 12.

The new building, for the first time, included a dining room where members could invite their wives and women friends. Until then, women had not been allowed to enter the club. However, there was no intention of allowing them to be members! The Athenaeum ceased to be a proprietary club when the Moorhead family sold it to its members in 1918. It is now composed mainly of professional and business people. It is still a ‘gentlemen’s only’ club. If they are truly ‘gentlemen’, it is time they did something about that. It is also hypocritical, in that it is named after Athena, goddess of wisdom, who’s image appears on the building and button. She couldn’t be a member!

From the Facebook page.

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