The idea of organizing a university club in Portland had been initially discussed during a meeting of Yale alumni in a waterfront tavern in December of 1897. The University Club of Portland was formally organized six months later on May 2, 1898 at a gathering in the office of prominent architect and MIT graduate William M. Whidden, who was immediately elected the Club’s first President. Also elected to the first board were L. Allen Lewis of Princeton, Ralph Bisbee from Harvard, and William L. Brewster a graduate of Amherst.
The Charter of Organization was signed by 56 alumni, representing 26 American colleges and universities, including the U.S. Military and Naval Academies, and one representative from the University of Toronto.
Graduates of eastern colleges made up the majority of the Charter signers including 11 from Yale, six from Amherst, five each from Harvard and the University of Virginia and four from MIT. The representatives from the western institutions, then in comparative infancy, included two from the University of California, and one each from the University of Oregon, Pacific University, the University of Utah, and Stanford.
The first annual meeting of the Club was held in the office of the Multnomah County Republican Club on October 8, 1898. After an evening of food and drink the Initiation fee was set with dues of $1.00 per month.
On April 10, 1900, an unfurnished room was leased on the second floor of a building at the north corner of Sixth and Alder Streets. (pictured above)
In November 1900, the fourth floor of the building belonging to the Failing Estate at Third Avenue and Washington Streets was leased for the Club rooms. During this, Club activities consisted of luncheons and gatherings at the cocktail hour, along with frequent appearances by famous local musicians and entertainers. When the members wished to have dinner, they went to Quells restaurant at Fourth and Alder for a thick T-Bone steak which cost the princely sum of $.75 cents.
The University Club of Portland was eventually incorporated on June 24, 1901 and after a few temporary homes over the next decade, the present site of the Club was purchased in 1912. During this period the beginnings of a Club library emerged and the concerted effort towards establishing an intellectual sanctuary was evident. Finally, the present day building was completed in 1913 for a reasonable $130,000 and the Club found its permanent home.
The Club has come a long way in its 100+ years of existence. Over the past century the Club has weathered a Great Depression, a devastating Recession, and five major wars, but there has always been the spirit and the will among officers and members to carry on the best of the Club's traditions. Alterations and improvements in structure and furnishings have kept pace with the needs of a growing and changing membership. The third and fourth floors, once sleeping rooms are now private dining rooms, offices and storage, and it is rumored that two or three ghosts walk the halls at night.
Originally an all-male Club with the occasional event where ladies were included, the University Club became an all-inclusive Club in 1990, voting in our first woman member in January of that year. The University Club of Portland prides itself on a friendly environment where everyone is welcome and accepted.