The Cleveland Park Club community lost a true friend December 5th when Bob Stern died at the age of 92. Bob and his wife Jinny have been active Club members, leaders and benefactors for nearly sixty years.
Now in its 98th year, the Cleveland Park Club spans generations and most of the history of this neighborhood. The Sterns have not only seen most of this history, but have been instrumental in keeping it going.
Bob served as a board member, officer and was a past president of the Club (1968-1970). Jinny served as Club board member until 2015. In 2015, Bob and Jinny were awarded a honorary lifetime membership in the Club in recognition of their years of contributions to the institution. They have been generous benefactors of the Cleveland Park Club Foundation since it was founded in 2015, helping to fund grants for the restoration of the porch foundation and steps, the drainage remediation and replacement of the Club’s roof.
The Cleveland Park Club Foundation extends its sympathies to Jinny and her family for their loss, and warm gratitude for their involvement, leadership and generosity in keeping the Club going these many years, and for generations to come.
In 1995, Bob penned a brief history of the Club for the Cleveland Park Historical Society’s newsletter, “Voices.”
Cleveland Park Club: 73 and Thriving
By Robert Stern
In a grove of tall oak and pine trees, on 33rd Place between Ordway and Highland Place, lies the Cleveland Park Club. It has served surrounding families for 73 years—so far. Its property consists of a typical Cleveland Park Victorian-style house with a large, covered porch, a play yard, and a swimming pool smaller than that of many single families today. But there is a lot more to the Cleveland Park Club (CPC) than its property, location, and small pool.
The Club has many noteworthy dimensions, starting with its age. How is it that this institution has withstood many financial and community challenges to its existence for nearly threequarters of a century? Let’s first look at the purposes for which it was organized and then see whether those still. meet current needs. Quoting from the only known remaining copy of the original CPC Members’ Booklet, dated January 1923:
“The CPC has been organized [in l922] by a group of your friends to be the social and recreational center of the best neighborhood in Washington. Doubtless new activities will be developed as time goes on, but right now the Club has to offer its members a picturesque house large enough and fully equipped enough to take care of the activities of the proposed membership, with grounds adjacent to the Club adequate for the development of outdoor pastimes such as tennis, swimming and putting.”
The clubhouse, former residence of Byron Graham, was purchased with help from Miss Agnes Miller (sister of W.C. and A.N. Miller) for about $12,000 in 1922.Of the initially grand plans for physical facilities, only the swimming pool has been realized – completed in July 1924 at a cost of $3202.36, including Showers and lockers. Today it seems quite unlikely that the planned two tennis courts and putting green would be added but note that the original Club property extended north to Ordway Street and west to Reno Road, as explained below.
Again, from the 1923 booklet: ‘The Club house is open to members at all times from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a caretaker in attendance, and with an electric piano, ping-pong and billiards, card room, meeting rooms, a well-furnished kitchen and miscellaneous equipment, ready for dancing games, or social intercourse. The Club house is also open on Wednesday and Saturday evenings until midnight and informal entertainment usually with refreshments, are provided. Entertainments this past year have been lectures on current topics, interpretative dancing, music and general dancing.”
From ‘Notes on the History of the Cleveland Park Club,” written in 1942 for the Club’s 20th anniversary by Colonel Joseph Fairbanks of 3319 Newark Street-a charter member and fifth president of CPC-we learn more: “October 4, 1923, is the date on which the Club acquired title to its home. On that day, Messrs. W.C. and A.N. Miller deeded to the Club two adjacent lots, carrying the Club property through to what is now Ordway Street-to be held by the Club as long as used for Club purposes. These additional lots no doubt furnished valuable protection for the Club during its infancy, but in 1930 they were deeded back to the Miller brothers, thereby ‘relieving’ the Club from the continued payment of taxes thereon.” There went those potential tennis courts and putting green!
Again, from Colonel Fairbanks, with regard to the Club’s social life in the 1920s and 30s: “No one can forget the many special parties on occasions such as Halloween, New Year’s and George Washington’s Birthday. Some were masquerade and some costume parties, rivaling the Bal Boehme in original and amusing attire. Do you not recall the genuine cave-man in the person of Dr. Smith [Dr. Philip S. Smith of Newark and 33rd Streets] entering by the front door with his captive wife slung nonchalantly over his shoulder, or Arthur Heaton [3320 Highland Place] as a beggar man in rags and tatters making his entrance by tumbling down the front stairs, or another evening when the Club, within doors and out, was converted into a cafe for an Italian fiesta complete with floor show, booths and tables.”
In June 1949, the District of Columbia gave notice of its intent to fill in the veritable canyon running between Ordway and Highland Place to make Reno Road a continuous, paved thoroughfare. Therefore, a short spur to the Club was extended north from Highland Place and named 33rd Place. Without moving the house, the Club’s address changed from 3228 Reno Road to the one we know now: 3433 33rd Place.
Today, with an unrecorded but large number of patches applied to the swimming pool and with generations of repairs and alterations made to the clubhouse, the membership of CPC remains at capacity: 150 members, mostly families. The small pool is still the main attraction from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These two holidays are occasions for a potluck supper, featuring an amazing variety of covered dish specialties prepared by members. The rite of passage for small children of members remains “passing” the swimming test! it requires the child to jump in at the deep end, tread water for one minute, then swim back and forth the full length of the pool (40 feet). Phew! The summer also features a day camp run at the clubhouse by member Rives Carroll. During the fall, winter and spring, there is an occasional Tuesday night lecture, an outing or two, square dances. At Christmas time, there is door to door caroling by local talent, young and old.
We conclude that remarkably little has changed in a fundamental way during the CPC’s first 73 years of existence. There is still a hunger for companionship with neighbors and for access across the generations. Long live the Cleveland Park Club!
Bob Stern was president of the Cleveland Park Club in 1968-70; his wife Jinny continues to serve on the board. AII four of their children passed the CPC swimming test.
Click here to make a tax deductible donation to the Cleveland Park Club Foundation and help preserve the history of the Club and in the restoration of the clubhouse for future generations.