Opening its doors in 1888 to an exclusive and prestigious group of theater professionals as well as “the kindred professions of literature, painting, architecture, sculpture and music, law and medicine, and the patrons of the arts,” the Players was the first “members only” club of its kind in American history.
Founded by famed tragedian Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth) along with an elite group of original members that included Mark Twain and General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Players Club has a lengthy and impressive theatrical history and has been the respite of quite a noteworthy cast of characters over the passing decades.
Still primarily a members-only institution, the Gramercy Park mansion occasionally opens its doors to the public for readings, screenings and performances. Home to a grand collection of theatrical props, costumes, and literature, the Players Club’s greatest treasure is kept upstairs under lock and key: the historically preserved apartment of the late Edwin Booth, left practically untouched in homage to the famous actor since his death in 1893.
If you’re able to finagle your way inside, you’ll find a skull originally belonging to Booth’s father, willed to him by an executed prisoner whom he befriended while in the drunk tank, a framed charcoal etching of William Shakespeare’s gravestone and a bedside photograph of his notorious brother John.