At the end of dead end street, perched on a hill, sits an old house with a huge wrap-around porch that you could never find unless you were looking for it. It is not a grand or fancy house like many of the others our neighborhood is known for. But it has a quiet dignity, a well-worn feel of a place that harbors many memories of fun and friendship.
The Cleveland Park Club has been called the best kept secret in the neighborhood. But for generations of areas residents, it’s no secret that the Club has been the beating heart of Cleveland Park for a very long time.
In 1922, a group of neighbors decided that the community needed a place where all could come together for, “social intercourse, recreation and sports, literature and the arts and for mutual improvement.” So says the Certificate of Incorporation when it was founded 96 years ago. The following year, after considering other sites, like the ravine between Ordway and Porter Streets east of Reno Road, the house just off Highland near Reno Road came on the market. It was purchased by neighbor and real estate investor Agnes Miller for the purposes of a club house. The Club bought the house from Ms. Miller in 1923 for $12,000.
At the same time, an adjacent series of lots along Ordway St owned by Agnes’s two brothers, W.C. and A.N. Miller, was donated to the Club for the purposes of developing a putting green and tennis courts. With a limited budget, the Club installed a backyard swimming pool, and converted the first floor of the former residence into a ball room. However, the funds to develop the additional athletic facilities never materialized, and the Club gave the Miller brothers back their land (3220-3318 Ordway Street) in 1930.
For the next thirty years, the Club held weekly dinners at the Club with members supplying the food and entertainment. They would put on plays and musicals, have poetry readings or hear stories of recent trips to exotic locations.
Today the Cleveland Park Club has 150 voting memberships in addition to dozens of social and activity members who enjoy Club programs and social activities. The summers are known for the heated outdoor pool, swim lessons and an extremely popular and low-key kids day camp. Throughout the year the Club holds classes for dance, music, karate and toddler play.
The pool area was renovated in 2017, and has spacious new decks for people to spread out and enjoy the summer.
The Club also hosts year-round social events like pot-luck parties at Memorial Day and Labor Day and porch cocktail parties where kids play in the yard or watch a movie with the babysitters upstairs. Members drive the social life, and this past year the Club hosted a Halloween party, an Oktoberfest with pig roast and a lively St. Patrick’s Day event to welcome spring.
Voting memberships, which come with use of the pool and the ability to rent the clubhouse for private events, are limited by the Club to 150 families. Anyone within the club’s boundaries is welcome to join, and the waiting list does turn over due to the nature of people moving in and out of DC for work. There is no limit to social membership, and all are welcome to join.
In 2015 the Cleveland Park Club Foundation began its mission as a 501c3 historic preservation charity to raise funds for the restoration of the historic clubhouse. In 2017 the Foundation raised and awarded the Club a grant of over $30,000 to rebuild a wall supporting the porch and to restore the original grand wooden staircase of the porch. Plans to divert storm water run-off away from the house, rehabilitation the porch and its roof are next on the list.
When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing this little non-profit social club has, for 96 years, drawn its governance and operations from volunteer members of the community year after year. A few years ago the Club recognized Jinny and Bob Stern of Newark Street as lifetime honorary members of the Club. Members since the early 1960s, the Sterns have been involved in Club life as leaders and good neighbors ever since.
So many families have made memories here… of learning to swim, of meeting best friends, of building new traditions. I hope you consider joining us, and look forward to seeing you on the porch.
To learn more about the Cleveland Park Club, including how to become a member, visit www.clevelandparkclub.org.
Bob Ward lives on Macomb Street near the Library with his wife Jennifer, son Conor (11) and daughter Bridget (7). They have been members of the Cleveland Park Club for the past ten years. A Club board member, Bob recently ended three years of service as its president.