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Pendennis Club

The Pendennis Club
Private club
Founded 1881; 137 years ago (1881)
Headquarters 218 Muhammad Ali Blvd, Louisville, Kentucky 40202
The original clubhouse, circa 1906

The Pendennis Club is a private club in Louisville, Kentucky. It was established in 1881 and modeled in part on English gentlemen's clubs. It took its name from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Pendennis (1848–50). The first clubhouse, acquired in 1883, was a former Belknap family mansion.[1] Soon after opening, a banquet was held to entertain President Chester A. Arthur on August 1, 1883, the same day he opened the Southern Exposition. Sometime in the 1880s, the club was the birthplace (by name, not invention) of the Old Fashioned, possibly the first mixed drink to be called a cocktail.[2]

Henry Bain sauce is named after a former employee and is now sold by the club.

A famous employee was Henry Bain, who during his forty-year career rose to headwaiter. He is the eponym of Henry Bain sauce. Roland Hayes, popularly said to be Bain's nephew, and considered the first African-American male concert artist to receive wide international acclaim, made his professional debut at the club in 1910.[3]

Club membership was long open only to whites, although that policy has been relaxed (the club also has a handful of female members). However, the image of an elite, restricted club still is common in the minds of Louisvillians. In 1999 it was one of several private clubs named in a discrimination lawsuit, and was eventually forced to turn over its membership records, though no investigation was ever conducted by the state Human Rights Commission. In 2006, club officials said there had been black members for several years.[4]

New clubhouse

Pendennis Club
Pendennis club 2007.jpg
Modern clubhouse in Downtown Louisville
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Coordinates 38°15′3.22″N 85°45′17.14″W / 38.2508944°N 85.7547611°W / 38.2508944; -85.7547611
Built 1928
Architect Nevin, Wischmeyer and Morgan; Wortham Construction Company
Architectural style Colonial Revival
NRHP reference # 03001225 [5]
Added to NRHP December 4, 2003

In 1928, a new clubhouse was built a block east of the old one, near the intersection of today's Second Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. It was built to designs of Frederick Lindley Morgan at a cost of $615,000, in neo-Georgian style. The third-story ballroom with large chandeliers and oak floor is well known. Other rooms feature wood paneling, marble floors and large murals along entire walls (several American Revolution scenes are depicted). There are also two bars, a barber shop, a library, athletic facilities, and numerous other rooms for members. The club employed about 30 and had about 800 members as of 2003.[6]

Club events

Kentucky Derby party

The Pendennis Club plays host to a popular post-Kentucky Derby party, which attracts much of the Louisville social crowd and usually a few celebrities. Tara Reid, Cuba Gooding Jr., Richard Branson and members of the New England Patriots have all attended the bash. In recent years, the event has received attention from national news outlets, including ESPN.

Derby brunch and dinner are also popular traditions at the club.

Boxing Night

The club also hosts an annual "Boxing Night." Amateur (usually collegiate) boxers square off in a ring set up in the club's grand ballroom. The black tie event is restricted to gentlemen.

Boxing has a rich tradition at the Pendennis Club. Louisville native Muhammad Ali fought at the club early in his career.

Prominent members

The club membership has included three U.S. Ambassadors to the Court of St. James's including Robert Todd Lincoln, Robert Worth Bingham and William S. Farish III.

Other members have included:

See also


  1. ^ "Kentucky Digital Library". Retrieved 10 June 2016. During the period of the Civil War, William Burke Belknap . . . owned and resided in a house [subsequently] occupied by the Pendennis Club. 
  2. ^ Reigler, Susan (2005-04-30). "Memorandum to area bartenders: Making Old-Fashioneds? Get it right!". The Courier-Journal. p. 2M. 
  3. ^ "Pendennis Club". The Encyclopedia of Louisville (1 ed.). 2001. 
  4. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2006-02-20). "Country club gets first black member". The Courier-Journal. p. 1B. 
  5. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  6. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2003-12-01). "Pendennis Club aims for repairs". The Courier-Journal. p. 1B. 

External links