Thursday Doors – The Cosmos Club

The Cosmos Club

One of the meetings I attended last week in Washington, D.C. was held at The Cosmos Club. I’m not saying that attending this meeting is the only way I could get inside, but, as they say on their website:

The Cosmos Club, founded in 1878, is a private social club for men and women distinguished in science, literature and the arts or public service. Members come from virtually every profession that has anything to do with scholarship, creative genius or intellectual distinction.

Among its members have been three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize winners and 55 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

So, as soon as some respected authority takes notice of the creative genius and intellectual distinction that is No Facilities, I’m in. Either that or maybe a friend of a friend of a friend gets married there. Who knows.

The Cosmos Club, in many ways, is like every “men’s” club in America. It’s selective, probably expensive, opulent, quiet and secluded. Surely, this was a place where influential people men met, pondered, schemed, wheeled and dealed, ate drank and were entertained.

Last week, about 40 people from various points on the Information Management and Information Services map, got together to share stories, listen to influential speakers, ask questions, discuss possibilities, make plans, eat and drink. It was a great venue for such a meeting.

Several of those people were aware of my interest in history and doors. Throughout the meeting, people were asking me “did you get a picture of…” or telling me that a door that had been open was now partially closed. At one point, a friend came up and said: “If you go to the men’s room, make sure you take your camera. There’s a curved door that you’re going to want a photo of.”

This was a place where I got a slightly funny look when I stepped out to use the men’s room without wearing my jacket and where people had been ushered out of the lobby before making a phone call. I was pretty sure taking a camera into the men’s room would be frowned upon. However, I took my phone and feigned interest in some artwork until staff members passed and I could snap a picture of that curved door,

Thursday Doors is a forward thinking social blog-hop for men and women distinguished by their love of doors, and a passionate interest in history, literature and the arts. The experience is cultivated by the foremost doorthorian, Norm Frampton, of the Montreal Framptons. All members and guests should enter through the front door and peruse the doors on display in the main gallery. Those wishing to study additional doors should search for the azure amphibian and depress the button of your pointing device in his general area. The club staff will then usher you into the main gallery, where you can observe all the doors on display.

The Cosmos Club has been located in the historic Townsend House mansion on Embassy Row, near DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. since 1952. The house had originally been home to Mary Scott Townsend and her husband Richard (retired president of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad). Richard died shortly after construction on the house was completed in 1901. Mary died in 1931, and the Townsend’s daughter Mathilde Scott Townsend lived in the house, off and on, through the mid to late 1940s. The Cosmos Club purchased the property in 1950. The house is adjacent to the Indian Embassy building, a photo of which is included in the gallery, especially for my friend Sharukh Bamboat who publishes a wonderful India Travel blog.

Most of the photos were taken clandestinely, using my iPhone. I did some work in Lightroom to straighten, crop and improve the lighting. Click on any photo to begin a slide show. There is a stunning photo of the building in the National Historic Registry application, but it states that it is not to be reproduced. That photo is reproduced in the pictures accompanying this history website.

100 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – The Cosmos Club

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  1. 👏🏻😏🤔😂😒Why do I suddenly feel as though I may now be followed by a dark unmarked car with black windows filled with seriously serious dudes inside, waiting for me to talk about what I have ‘seen’ here. Why do only the most special people (men) get to hang out in the loveliest buildings? Lol We in the ranks of the No Facilities audience appreciate your service in the interest of Thursday Doors. Happy Thursday Dan!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl. Keep in mind, that up until 1987, women weren’t allowed to join and female guests of male members, had to enter through a side door. So, do talk to those strange men in that car. ;-)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My first thought when looking at that first pic was that it had the look of an old-style men’s club from back in the day when (rich white) men were the only ones wise enough to do the world’s thinking :-/
    All the same it is a gorgeous building and it’s very cool that you got to see it up close. The curved ones are my faves.
    And as you now know, taking a camera into a public washroom, supposedly to photograph doors, is in fact frowned upon; they just don’t understand us Dan :-D

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Norm. The place did have that look to it. I’ve been to The Hartford Club, many times for events and meetings, but this place was way over the top. It’s funny what people will suggest once they know your a door-guy, but yeah, not the restroom.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a place! Hidden doors and all this week, Dan, well done. I love how you got round the ‘reproduction’ obstacle with that link. Interesting that Mrs. Townsend thought she would encounter evil if she lived a totally new house. It’s funny how childhood fears can still affect us later on in life. I blame Dr. Who for my anxiety over spiders. A giant one in one of the episodes I watched as a child, scared the life out of me. :o

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the history Jean (not surprised, but glad). It’s so funny that she “joined” the other house. It has since become part of the Cosmos Club, via a hallway that links the two buildings. It was also amazing that in the very first years of the 1900’s she was spending several hundred thousand dollars a year, entertaining.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I know! I was looking up some old prices. Sirloin steak was 13 cents a pound, in Boston in 1913. That’s probable a similar price to Washington, DC. A good bottle of wine might have cost a few dollars. That woman was living large.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the post and the Cosmos Club interiors are just breathtaking. I believe in one of your earlier posts you did put up the picture of the Indian Embassy. Also, thank you very much for including my name in the post. I usually don’t see my name mentioned anywhere so it is an honor to at least find it on your site in some of the posts. Also, since we are talking about D.C. I must tell you that these days I’m watching House of Cards which is a political drama set in D.C. I’m loving it, but more than anything else I love the timescape of D.C. that they have when the initial credits roll in. The music is equally good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sharukh. I was pretty sure I had posted the Indian Embassy photos before, but I couldn’t find them. I was wondering if I only shared them in our group. Anyway, it was a good opportunity to mention you :)

      I love DC, but I try not to think about the “work” going on behind the scenes. It’s supposed to be where the peoples’ business is carried out, but it’s still a bunch of guys in a private room.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Good thing you took us along on this doorscursion because I’m sure I’d never get an invite inside. Handsome place, and I love the doors, but a little too elite for this woman. These type of places seem quite out of place in 2017. Glad you got to go inside because this is a beautiful building. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. These places do seem out of place today. Actually, the fact that this was once a private residence also boggles my mind. I think the prospect of getting a look inside, helped draw a few people into the meeting. It was a little surreal sitting there amid the gilded molding. The prospects for a return visit are not good for this boy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Since it once was a private residence, I was trying to imagine being a child in those rooms. I’m guessing Mathilde wasn’t rolling toy trucks around the Persian rugs…

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  6. Wow, these are some fancy schmancy doors today, Dan. Did you feel privileged that you were able to mingle with your fellow geniuses at the Cosmos Club?

    I chuckle that your associates/friends know enough about your door thing that they encourage you to take photos in the mens’ bathroom. That’s pretty funny…plus we get curved doors! Thanks for sharing the inside of a place that I’ll never see (unless they decide to make it a womens’ retreat for the mathematically challenged).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Mary. Given that it took them many decades to let women join (or enter through the front door) I don’t see it becoming a women’s retreat. And that math thing ain’t helping you anymore than my jacketless-tieless shirt was helping me. The bottom (no pun intended) line is that the chairs were just as hard as all the less fancy meeting rooms I’ve ever been in. After 8 hours, that’s all yo notice.

      I loved those curved doors, so I am glad my friend scoped them out for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m surprised no one handed you a jacket and tie at the door. The regulars might have thought you were a hobo off the street. ;-) I’m also surprised that they would have hard chairs given it’s a fancy mens’ club. The members must not sit for very long.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lois. Keep in mind that, before it was the Cosmos Club, it was someone’s house. But they often stayed in their other houses, the ones in other countries. Just like we do :-)

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  7. WOW! I LOVE that your friends and colleagues are in on the doors thing. That’s just… I dunno what it is, but it sure makes me grin ear-to-ear.

    And now I can say that I am a virtual friend of a guy who sat in a room that was the exclusive domain of scholarship, creative genius, and intellectual distinction.

    You just made my day, Dan. You really did.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Maggie. Friends will read your blog. Good friends will find doors for you to photograph. I’m glad you enjoyed this edition of Thursday Doors. I don’t think I’ll be invited to too many places like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved this post, Dan. What a place! Elegance and history. Wouldn’t membership in the Cosmos be something! John Singer Sargent is one of my favorites. His gigantic portrait painting at the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH is one of his best. Small museum with all the art of the big ones- a real jewel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennie. I’m glad you liked this post. I don’t think I’ll start a category for places like this. Having the qualifications to join, not to mention the money, would be nice, but I don’t think I’m cut out to run in those circles.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, there’s no question that this is a gorgeous building, doors and all. But I have to admit, there’s always been something sort of offensive about unpleasant, stuck-up people frequenting such nice surroundings. Oh, I’m sure not EVERY member of these ridiculous elitist clubs is a snooty prig, buuuuut I suspect the majority are. Now, I know that the whole point when you’re stinking rich and think you’re better than everyone else on the planet is to have nice things that most others can’t enjoy, and I know it’s been that way since nearly the beginning of time. But I’m just gonna say it: I for one think that if you’re this type of person, you shouldn’t be allowed in a nice place like this where you’re not going to appreciate the beauty for what it is — incredible design and art. I doubt the people who frequent these establishments give much regard to anything other than what it means for them to be there. I imagine them walking inside, giving it the once-over, and saying, “Hmm, I SUPPOSE it’ll do. Seems fancy enough. Aren’t I special?” Ugh. I’m not a bitter person and I don’t begrudge anyone anything. But it is a shame to know that amazing architecture and art is often only appreciated by the people who are told they aren’t good enough for it.

    Dan, I’m glad you got to enjoy this remarkable building, and then took photos to share with the rest of us “commoners” despite the snoot-ish atmosphere. A place like that deserves to be appreciated for WHAT it is, not WHO it represents, and you’ve done it justice here today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy. I was glad to be able to see what this place looks like on the inside, as that’s always one of the questions I think about when I’m walking by, snapping photos of doors. I understand the history of some “Men’s Clubs” and the role they played in the advancement of commerce and politics in many cities. I also understand (and kina like) the fact that many are failing today, because there’s ever-so-slightly more transparency around those processes today.

      I might have been the only person in the building to study the curved doors, thinking about the tools that I have and wondering if I could make them, and wondering where I could get curved glass.

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  10. Gosh, your career takes you to amazing places. All my IT team ever got was doughnuts and we had to sneak them in because of civil service rules. :) Oh, to be honest, we did go to Denny’s once, separate checks though.

    Well done, Dan. Great photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmmm, doooonutttttts – Sorry, I’m back at work today and a good breakfast place and/or a good donut remains high on my list. This was fun, and this little mini-conference is always an eye-opener. Usually, by the time I leave, my brain is full. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Even the “boring” door is a mighty fine specimen. Hidden door and curved door, Ooh! Ahh! It’s a beautiful building. Fancy schmancy :P
    I loved the way you framed the #ThursdayDoors info this week. Clearly you’re elevating the entire blogosphere! :D

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I think Norm and Thursday Doors can hang in there with the best of them. This group has brought forth their fair share of fancy-schmancy. I was impressed with the glass doors that had curved glass panels in them. Actual curved doors, and a set that closes tight, seemed pretty remarkable. Of course, they’re the exit doors from the dining room, if you’re heading to the Men’s room, but for some of us, they are pure magic in woodworking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. I love Thursday Doors. I learn so much. I’m sure you appreciate the round doors on a level I cannot, but to me they’re sorta magical attractive, because I don’t even know how.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. What intrigues me about them is that, you can tell, they were made that way so they would open without blocking the hallway. It was one of those “we can’t fit a door here, but we need one” situations that a craftsman solved.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. I should point out that the library was the mini-library. The actual library was across from our meeting room, but non-members were not allowed close enough to even lean in and snap a photo. Don’t ask me how I know that last bit. It’s a remarkable building. That it was once a private residence and that the owners didn’t live in it all year long, is a bit much to consider, but… The craftsmanship in that one room was just amazing. I can only imagine what some of the members-only rooms look like.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh to live in this type of luxury. Wow!!! LOVED this post, Dan! I think I may have had some sort of mixup where to be delivered as a child because I know I should have been royalty. And this period of design just pulls at me just wanting to be there. *sigh* Thanks for giving me a nice dream while it lasted. LOL 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I’m glad you liked this. I wasn’t cut out for such luxury. I was trying to imagine what it must have been like to be a child in this place, I mean Mathilde grew up there, and I wasn’t getting an image of fun. The woodwork and architecture was amazing to look at, though, I did enjoy being able to look behind the doors this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reality check. What was I thinking? When born in royalty there usually comes with that a whole set of rules and conditions and those I don’t like much. Of course when I make the rules (for a good cause) that’s OK. So, I guess that stork did know what it was doing. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Obviously the people responsible for membership at the Cosmos Club simply don’t know you like we know you. It is without question that you should be granted membership for your creative genius. Just getting all these great photos clandestinely with a iphone pretty well seals it :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Joanne. I guess I have to wait for the Nobel Committee to add Thursday Doors to the list, and then I think I’m behind several other regulars. I guess it’s not meant to be. Frankly, I’m OK with that. A couple of days was fun, I don’t know that I’m well suited to a steady diet of this. Besides, after the summer is over, it’s suit and ties at all times.

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    1. Thanks Janet. I didn’t mention the look I got when I asked what beers they had. None that I liked, so it was wine for me for a change. I was happy to be able to sneak into the dining room and snag a picture of the inside of those curved doors.

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  14. I liked the Cosmos Club! The outside is pretentious and reminds me of the French Provincial style.
    Inside looking out the front door was a great way to see the stained glass with what could be black rod-iron framing. I also feel it could be wooden with black paint upon it. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow curved doors not just one curved door! Beautiful designed parts! I have never seen a door that is not straight. Even there is a library included among them! It looks like a really fun place to meet up!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. LOL… Dan, I can just imagine you sneaking photos at the Cosmos Club!
    It really is a beautiful building. Plus, it’s ever so slightly creepy looking from outside. I imagine spiritualists of the olden days having seances there. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So at last, thanks to you, I’ve been inside an exclusive men’s club, the thought of such a gathering of wealth, testosterone and exclusivity makes my skin crawl. But the illicit photos were nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I love that door, too. I normally prefer my camera to my phone, but the phone draws way less attention, unless you make a call, which, in this place, is not allowed in public spaces. Actually, I like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Nice pictures and it is an impressive building, but boy do they pay their employees poorly, and treat them like crap most of the time, having worked there for a summer myself. Nobody is forced to take a job there, I know, but I had to laugh when I heard the managers complaining about the constant turnover and a difficulty in finding employees who spoke English well. $8 an hour was all I earned and boy were they adamant about not accepting any tips from anyone ever. Non-members at various events in the banquet rooms, unaware of all the club’s rules, sometimes tipped employees, and I was one of those who happily accepted when a manager wasn’t looking. They constantly sent out notices and made announcements that anyone accepting a tip would be immediately fired. Fired from an $8/hour job – oh well! The guilt still plagues me for taking all those tips. Also, I’d love to see exactly how they would have “immediately fired” anyone anyway during Sunday brunch when things were totally slammed, or at a busy catered function. Good luck with that. In the club’s favor – the chefs and other cooking staff really knew what they were doing – I know because I ate a lot of leftovers I probably wasn’t supposed to eat. That’s probably where most of the payroll budget went.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the inside view. The staff members I encountered did not seem very happy. I worked for a catering company, and I know about serving in those situations, I also remember sneaking leftovers :-)

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  19. The only staff members that stayed on long term from what I could tell were those whose English was extremely poor and had difficulty getting a job anywhere else. There were also a few former crack addicts (in full recovery as far as I know, but I could tell they had had a serious stroke) waiting tables and washing dishes (this was 20 years ago though). Nothing wrong with a fully recovered crack addict working there, but you could see how desperate the club was to hire people; maybe things have since changed.

    The members, for the most part, were pretty chill and not all that demanding or snooty from what I recall. But there was one incident I’ll never forget working Sunday brunch. I opened a bottle of champagne for a family that had guests with them at one Sunday brunch. The cork was really stubborn and it popped off, flying across the room and champagne bubbled up and ran down all over the bottle. Other people there just laughed, and once I had things back in control I poured all the champagne. But the next Sunday the manager at brunch told me to let him open any bottles of champagne when guests requested it, because the party I had served said what had happened was “very embarrassing” to them. Huh? How can I, totally unrelated to this family, embarrass them? Even the manager found it a little bit silly. Perhaps somewhere out there can shed some light. I don’t get it. They must have been real insecure people.

    I do remember one other cool thing about the club – upstairs in the game/card room, besides a couple of pool tables, there was a real billiards table! I think I’ve only seen two of those in my whole life – one there and the other at my brother’s fraternity house. People who own pool tables sometimes have these little kits to block off the holes and convert their pool tables to an instant billiards table, they also have pads for that purpose, but real billiards enthusiasts scoff at that because a real billiards table is also supposed to be a little lower than a pool table. The one at the Cosmos Club was in pristine condition because nobody ever played it; the one at my brother’s frat house, not so much.

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