A Detailed History of The Mount Vernon Club

Early 20th Century Mount Vernon
In the early 20th century, the changing roles of women and the expansion of their interests and activities outside the home led to the creation of women’s clubs and civic organizations nationwide. Following the lead of prominent early clubs such as the Colony Club of New York (founded 1903), the movement reached its zenith in Baltimore in the 1920s. Two of the clubs formed at that time were located in the prestigious Mount Vernon neighborhood: the Town Club, founded in 1928, and the Mount Vernon Club, organized the following year. The Town Club, with its rooms in the Washington Apartments, was formed by a smaller group of ladies who lived principally in the country but wanted a pied-a-terre in town where they could lunch and entertain. The Mount Vernon Club was founded by a much larger number of mainly city residents to be both a social center and a place to pursue more serious interests such as lectures and music. The Mount Vernon Club was first located at 103 West Monument Street but in 1933 moved to 3 West Mount Vernon Place, across the park from its current location.

Early in 1941, the Mount Vernon Club’s officers learned that Mr. Blanchard Randall wished to sell his grand Greek Revival town house at 8 West Mount Vernon Place. They approached the Town Club about pooling their resources to buy the building and planning a merger of the similar organizations. After accomplishing these endeavors in a remarkably short time, the first meeting of the combined “Mount Vernon Town Club” (as it was called until 1944) was held on May 7, 1941. Throughout the following summer, the new clubhouse was extensively renovated, adding two bathrooms on the first
Artist rendering of the Writing room
 and second floors in what had been an exterior passageway on the west side. The original furnishings included upholstered furniture and other pieces from the previous headquarters of both Clubs, such as the painted mirrors now in the CafĂ© on the first floor. These were supplemented by a few items already in use at 8 West, including the ornate Victorian overmantel and pier mirrors with matching window cornices in the Drawing and Dining Rooms, which had originally furnished “Evergreen,” the Buckler family country estate in West Baltimore. Over the years since, many members have generously donated or lent decorative and useful pieces to enhance furnishings of the Club, including such notable items as the 17th century tapestries in the Drawing Room.

The renovated clubhouse opened officially at a “brilliant and delightful” reception for the membership on October 20, 1941. The beginning of World War II immediately thereafter had a great impact on the members and club activities.  While the board had to cope with black-out preparations, rationing, shortages, and inflation, the “War Efforts Committee” helped organize members’ war-related volunteer work.  With peacetime, the Club became a center of Baltimore social life. The general usage of the Club, which emphasized regular daytime visits and private evening parties, reflected the different character and customs of those times.  Indeed, some ladies lunched there every day.  
Although not as much of a focus in the early decades, an agreeable pattern of program activities also emerged including bridge lessons and tournaments, daytime series of current events, music, Lenten lectures, and formal evening lecture-dinners. Annual special events included the popular New Year’s luncheons and art exhibitions of members’ works. Unmarried gentlemen were first admitted as a “Courtesy Member” of the Club in the fall of 1952, though their access, and that of members’ husbands and other male guests, was quite limited during the day until 1970. 

By the 1960s, changes in urban Baltimore, residential patterns, and women’s lives and roles led to the decline of regular luncheon use of the Club. Instead, planned programmatic activities enticed members into  town, including decorative arts lecture series and fashion shows. In the evenings, the “Special Dinners Committee” offered foreign cuisines not then available in Baltimore restaurants. Christmas feasts were instituted also. The late 1960s and 1970s brought troubled times to the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Nevertheless, popular “travel luncheons” and lecture-dinners, with speakers ranging from international figures to Club members or their spouses, sold out regularly. The modern Club emerged during the prosperous 1980s, featuring a wide variety of innovative programs and lavish private entertaining.
The Club as it is today
Having survived both the changing neighborhood and dramatic transformations in society and women’s lives in recent decades, the Mount Vernon Club of today is a thriving organization where tradition and the modern world meet. Club members are offered extensive and varied activities geared to their evolving life styles and interests.  Strategic Planning during the late 1990s led to a renewed commitment to stay in town in its historic location and to the restoration and enhancement of the Club’s facilities. A handsome redecoration in the late 1990s has added a refreshed sense of style and elegance to the principal rooms. In 2000, the Carriage House, after decades of use as a rental apartment, was renovated and opened for members’ use. In 2002-2003, the Club’s garden also underwent major restoration with delightful results. Our resilient Club celebrated its 75th birthday in 2004 and is moving into the 21st century in excellent condition.