Wednesday, 09 September 2009 | By DONNA KENNY KIRWAN, Pawtucket Times
The tables are still set with white linens in the member’s dining room, but the To Kalon Club quietly stopped serving meals in July. The venerable club, for decades a place where the city's movers and shakers could relax, enjoy a fine meal and socialize with like-minded business professionals, has fallen on financial difficulties and the remaining members are hoping to find an owner who will also be a benefactor.
Known simply as the TK Club, the organization was started in 1867 as an upscale men’s club and the landmark building that has served as its headquarters is 100 years old this year, noted current club president Greg Troy. While Troy and other current members—many of whom had fathers and grandfathers who were TK alumni—are still meeting periodically, the painful decision was reached earlier this summer to shut the building down.
“The membership has dwindled and there is just not enough utilization of the club,” said Troy. He noted that in its heyday, the TK Club had around 300 members, even as late as the 1980s. However, the current membership has dwindled to less than a third of that, and there continues to be a general lack of interest among younger working professionals for a private social club. “It was hard for us to justify keeping it going,” he said.
Troy noted that times have changed considerably from the days when the local titans of commerce sought out their own place to dine, drink and socialize – and also to conduct business. Many of the mills and manufacturers and banks, whose members filled the TK Club roster, eventually closed or moved out of Pawtucket. Dozens of longtime older members, who had been the backbone and vitality of the club, have either retired or passed away. Plus, in earlier decades, there weren’t that many alternatives in the way of upscale restaurants and private social clubs in the Pawtucket area, as Troy pointed out.
Allen H. Chatterton III is a past TK Club president whose father, Allen H. Chatterton, Jr., was president in the 1960s and grandfather, Allen H. Chatterton, Sr., served in the same capacity in the 1940s. “I bleed the TK Club colors,” he stated. “I would do almost anything to keep the club going, but I can’t do it alone.”
Chatterton noted that the TK Club still has its membership charter, and intends to remain a club even without its longtime “clubhouse”. He noted that when the organization was formed back in 1867, the club utilized other locations until the present brick building was constructed in 1908.
The current members have tried to grow the membership among local professionals. The have kept up the club’s tradition of bowling, card games and pool, and have held “club nights” with interesting speakers and events. Women, who for decades were banned from even entering the all-male bastion, are now accepted as members. However, Troy said that when membership in the TK Club is suggested to someone, the response is invariably, “I have no time, or business is not that good, etc.”
The three-story brick building, over 15,000-square-feet in size, sits prominently on Main Street, next to I-95. A first floor features a large reading room with an attached bar, where members could relax and read the paper by the ornate fireplace. Dinner was served in the richly paneled members’ dining room, off of which sat a private dining area for special occasions.
A grandly carved center staircase leads to a second floor banquet room and a large billiards room, while the third floor was built as sleeping quarters for business travelers or longer-term lodgers. In the basement is a functioning four-lane bowling alley, where the TK club’s league only recently wrapped up its season.
[... T]here are some costly repairs needed to maintain the century-old structure, not the least of which are the many upgrades that would be required to meet the state's current fire safety codes. While the private club is “grandfathered” on fire codes to conduct most of its membership business, plans to promote the venue to the public for functions such as weddings and other large-scale parties and events had to be curtailed with the implementation of a more stringent fire code.
As such, Troy said, the current members acknowledge that the building needs the right type of buyer, but they are trying to remain optimistic that it still has a future, perhaps as a fine dining establishment or some other type of similar commercial venture. Ideally, they would like to find someone willing to restore the building to its former glory, operate what he calls a “linen and fine china” restaurant, and still allow the To Kalon club members to meet there from time to time.
“This is one of the most recognizable, visible buildings in the city. It’s a gem, noted Troy. “It would be a shame to see it knocked down.” He pointed out the building’s proximity to the highway as well as the dearth of restaurants in the city that offer a more upscale dining experience.
Both Troy and Chatterton said they have discussed the TK Club’s plight with Mayor James Doyle and other city officials, members of The Pawtucket Foundation, and countless other members of the community. While many have expressed concern, none have come forward in any tangible way to help.
“Support from the community has been lacking,” said Chatterton. He, Troy and other board members have been hoping for a partnership on some level that will allow the building to be preserved, rather than razed. “The TK Club is one of the few remaining symbols of the Blackstone Valley and its success. To let this beautiful building be boarded up, or worse, knocked down, would be an embarrassment.”
From the To Kalon CLub website – Established in 1867 as a private dining club, the ancient Greek definition of [the] name “To Kalon” is “the good, beautiful, hospitality.” When you enter the main foyer, you are immediately transported to an era where architectural details add charm and warmth.
JWFARRANDS Mar 3 2013 WHY EVEN SAVE IT. THEY NEVER WANTED ANY ONE OTHER THAN THE RICH SNOBS TO JOIN.
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