Behind appropriately impressive heavy doors and ornate turn of the century stained glass windows, the Explorers Club headquarters on East 70th street looks like it has been been there forever - but in fact it’s only the most recent home of the wandering organization.
Originally founded in 1904 by a group of former expedition members to promote and share stories of exploration, the club found its first headquarters on West 67th. Sixty-one years and five buildings later, they purchased the 1910 Jacobean townhouse on East 70th Street originally built for Stephen Clark, heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and benefactor of many public works in the city.
It is now known as the Lowell Thomas building, after the adventuring journalist and Explorers Club member best remembered for his dramatic WWI footage that introduced Lawrence of Arabia to the world.
A century’s worth of amassed exploration treasures fill the building’s four floors, from the ground floor lounge’s overstuffed leather furniture and cozy fireplace to the polar bear taxidermy that greets you on the second. An enormous globe used by Thor Heyerdahl to plot his famous Kon Tiki expedition across the Pacific sits in a place of honor on the ground floor, near a display case holding items from the Club’s archives.
Under an ornate coffered ceiling and punctuated with a huge painting of the ill-fated Greeley expedition, the second story library holds approximately 13,000 books and 5,000 maps and a variety of audiovisual materials behind paned glass doors. The main meeting room at the front is decorated with expedition flags from historic exploration, including NASA adventures.
The uppermost floor is home to their research archives, holding the club’s impressive collection of manuscripts, art, and artifacts, much of which was donated by members returning from expeditions.
The Trophy Room on the same floor is the club's showpiece, with an enormous table surrounded by exotic taxidermy, tusks and antlers of all varieties, and display cases holding intriguing objects from the far corners of the world, including rocks from Everest and the famous “yeti scalp” (note: may or may not be made of actual yeti).
Scaffolding was just recently removed, revealing the results of a five year long refurbishment of the building’s facade, but work continues to preserve the building.