This month the University of Washington Club is giving a free lunch to its 100th customer every day. That lucky person will also receive small gifts, such as a travel cup and a tote bag.
It’s all to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the club’s incorporation, which happened on Nov. 13, 1909. That was just after the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition finished its five-month run on campus. During the fair, the building that sat on the club’s site was the Hoo Hoo House, built for an organization of lumbermen. But then the UW Men’s Club — a faculty organization with 40 members — purchased the building and made it their clubhouse. And that was the beginning.
“It’s fun to think that we started with just 40 members 100 years ago,” said Jill Brazier, the club’s membership coordinator. “Today we have more than 1,800, and we are continuing to grow.”
Of course, it wasn’t long after the Men’s Club came into being that faculty women organized their own organization, called the Women’s Club. They began as an unincorporated group in 1915 and created their first constitution in 1923. The men deigned to let the women use the building starting in 1927, but they had to enter and exit through the side door.
In fact, the two groups didn’t merge to become the Faculty Club until 1972. By that time, the old building had been torn down and a new one, designed by Victor Steinbrueck and Paul Hayden Kirk, had been built on the site.
“What is now the downstairs conference room was then a billiards room,” club manager Alexandra Chordas said. “When the two clubs merged, the women had to take a class on billiards and pool etiquette.”
The “new” building, which is still in use, was built in 1958. This year it was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
For all its years, the club’s purpose hasn’t changed. “We’re trying to create a place where the community can get together,” club manager Alexandra Chordas said. “So you could be a faculty member in physics and someone else a staff person in engineering and this is a place where you can meet.”
Staff, in fact, have been welcome as members since 1975, but unfortunately the name remained the Faculty Club until 2004, leading many people to assume that it was only for faculty. Today, it is open to retirees and members of the Alumni Association as well as faculty and staff.
“We recognize that the UW is more diverse than it used to be, and we are reaching out to different groups,” Chordas said. “We have been inviting groups such as the African American faculty and staff affinity group to come and do an event here. Then we do a talk about the advantages of membership.”
Membership, which runs $150 a year ($8.34 per paycheck, October through June), gets you more than a nice place to have lunch. Members enjoy reciprocity at clubs on other campuses that belong to the Association of College and University Clubs, many of which offer accommodations as well as food. The club also offers a number of events — such as dinners, wine tastings and travelogues — that are open to members and guests. And members are eligible to rent rooms for their own events.
“We do a ton of weddings, bar mitzvahs, that sort of thing,” Brazier said.
Some members have more informal gatherings at the club, too. There’s the Wednesday Lunch Bunch, for example, who gather every Wednesday to have discussions. There are about 30 people in the group, Brazier said, although only about 10 or 12 come to any given lunch. They’re retirees, from engineering mostly, but they welcome anyone who is interested to join them.
This winter the club will begin a new event — a monthly film series that will run from January through April. The filmmakers will be present to show their films, and there will be appetizers, beverages and a Q&A with the filmmaker. The series kicks off on Jan. 31 with Outsourced, by John Jeffcoat.
Chordas and Brazier know that in some ways they’re working against the tide. Today’s faster pace seems to mean that the days of entire departments dropping by for a leisurely lunch are over.
But they’re proud of the club’s inclusiveness. “It’s a warm and wonderful place to be,” Brazier said.
“Aside from great food, service and club events, one of the things we offer is relationship,” Chordas added. “We create that here. When you walk in the door, we hope we get to know you.”