New Bedford’s Wamsutta Club Has a Long and Interesting History
As a young man in the 1970s, I recall New Bedford's Wamsutta Club was a society of businessmen who gathered over food and drink to discuss business – with other businessmen.
Women were not permitted to join the club, at least not yet, although the Saturday Club had allowed women to at least utilize the club one day a month for the past 130-plus years.
The Wamsutta Club was founded in 1866 by Charles Warren Clifford as an athletic club where well-to-do businessmen could spend afternoons playing baseball, a game popularized following the Civil War.
According to the Wamsutta Club's website, baseball, invented in 1845 by Alexander Cartwright, was growing in popularity in places such as New York, but "men from other parts of the country learned to play the game in Union Army camps," leading to rapid growth in the rest of the country, including New Bedford.
The site says, "The Wamsutta Club soon evolved into a social club." Members gathered at the "old Ricketson block on Purchase Street" before moving to the Masonic building on Pleasant and Union Streets in 1880.
In 1889, once chartered, the club moved to the former Perry House at Union and County Streets, across from the present location.
In 1925, the Wamsutta Club purchased the James Arnold House.
"Two large wings were added to the north and south; squash courts were added to the west," according to the website.
Following the Great Depression and declines in the local textile industry, the club membership was "re-established on a broader base." The site says, "Club programs were expanded to meet the needs of a changing community at the club."
By 1980, women were allowed to join the Wamsutta Club.
The James Arnold Mansion became a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization in 2017. "The Wamsutta Club remains the same," says the website. "They are now two separate organizations sharing the mansion."
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