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History of City Club

City Club/Culbert House in its original appearance before its 1909 addition

Also known as the “Dr. William A. M. Culbert House,” these ruins on Grand Street in Newburgh, New York are a rare surviving design by native newburgher, Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing, who is often called the “Father of American landscape architecture” alongside his partner at the time Calvert Vaux, built the structure between 1852 and 1857 as the home and offices of Dr. William A. Culbert. Culbert lived in the house with his wife Harrietta Powell, daughter of Thomas Powell, whose impressive home once stood on the nearby grounds of Mount Saint Mary.


vintage newburgh postcard

The house remained a family residence until its sale in 1904 to Newburgh’s City Club, who turned the Culbert House into their headquarters. City Club was an exclusive club composed of Newburgh’s prominent businessmen and politicians who would meet and bring clients to the Culbert House for recreation and meals. Inside the house, members could play pool, poker, shuffleboard, and even bowl in the basement’s bowling alley. City Club activities could be accommodated with the 1909 addition by local architect, Frank Estabrook, which seamlessly tripled the size of the structure.

By the 1960’s, the City Club’s declining membership led to the building being shared with tenants including a law library on the second floor was for the Supreme Court of the 9 Judicial District.

By the 1970s, the City Club faced the threat of demolition when the Board of Education tried unsuccessfully to purchase the building and demolish it for additional parking. Luckily the building was spared and was meticulously restored in the following years, but sadly in December of 1981, an act of suspected arson reduced this historic structure to nothing more than the facade you see today.

In 2019, Austrian artist Martin Roth was set to begin work transforming the building into a public garden and art exhibit, but tragically Roth died before the project could get underway.

In August of 2020, the City of Newburgh issued a Request for Proposals for the old City Club building.


Photos from Survey HABS NY-6220 (Library of Congress)

A piece of the old City Club can be seen today at the Newburgh Brewing Company, whose taproom holds the club’s old 27-foot shuffleboard. Donated by the McCoy family, the board was meticulously restored by the team at Atlas Industries.

Aerial Panorama looking down on City Club ruins

Further Reading

Poughkeepsie Journal: Once grand example of architectural design, Newburgh City Club shell of former self

Newburgh Restoration: Before and After: Newburgh City Club

Villas and Cottages: A Series of Designs Prepared for Execution in the United States By Calvert Vaux, Andrew Jackson Downing, Frederick Clarke Withers

City Club Design

Wikipedia

Try a Little Wilderness: Andrew Jackson Downing

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