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Pendennis Club

It appeared in the 2010 Disney film "Secretariat" … and witnessed the early fighting career of Muhammad Ali.

Those are two things you probably didn’t know about Louisville’s famed Pendennis Club. We learn a bit more about the social society, in Et Cetera.

Although business is almost certainly conducted there, The Pendennis Club is a social organization.

Named after a book by English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, The Pendennis Club was established in 1881.

Club members initially met in a rented space above a grocery where the Seelbach Hotel stands today.

The club’s second home, its first real clubhous, was a mansion acquired in 1883, formerly belonging to the Belknap family.

The current Pendennis Club sits at 218 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, formerly Walnut Street. It was completed in 1928.

The building shares many features with the previous clubhouse, including the front steps and terrace, the main staircase and the floor plan on the first level. The look and feel of the club’s interior has remained virtually the same throughout the years.

One of the most well-known employees of the Pendennis Club was who worked at the club for forty years.

Bain created a condiment for steak and wild game that remains a local favorite, more than 100 years later. He sold the rights to the sauce to the club.

During the Southern Exposition, the club hosted President Chester A. Arthur who was in town to open the event.

Ali’s connection with the club came with boxing matches which were held at the facility.

The Old Fashioned cocktail was also reportedly invented at the Pendennis Club.

The Old Fashioned cocktail consists of simple syrup, muddled fruits, bitters and of course bourbon!

Etc.:

  • According to "The Encyclopedia of Louisville," “Pendennis” has a Cornish derivation, meaning “high place”.
  • Acquired in 1883, the club’s second home, was a former Belknap family mansion.
  • The Pendennis Club is reportedly entirely fireproof and its walls are more than six feet thick. This is because the facility was designed to support at least an additional two stories.
  • The current clubhouse was built for a cost of $1 million; under the leadership of former club president Owsley Brown.
  • According to the Courier-Journal (via Pendennis Club), entry and lobby to the current Pendennis Club were “meticulous reproductions of parts of the American wing in the Metropolitan Museum”; and the chandeliers in the Main Dinging Room are “faithful reproductions of those in the Treasury House, York, England.”
  • It is believed that Henry Bain started his career at the Pendennis Club as an elevator operator.
  • The great lyric tenor Roland Hayes was the nephew of Henry Bain. According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, Bain arranged for Hayes to make his professional debut at the Pendennis Club in 1910.
  • Bain worked in the Pendennis Club’s Belknap home. He was scheduled to play a major role in the grand opening of the current Pendennis clubhouse but he died a few short months before the event. Henry Bain is buried in New Albany, In.
  • Henry Bain’s Famous Sauce is now available commercially from the Club through local retailers.
  • Although the Pendennis Club does not publish its list of members (it is a private club, after all), it is known that Samuel A. Culbertson, former president of Churchill Downs, was a former club president. Robert Todd Lincoln and Robert Worth Bingham were also Pendennis Club members.
  • The oldest known Club artifact dates back to the year of its founding (1881) – a bourbon bottle. The bottle’s label is embossed with the Club’s seal and Eagle crest.
  • The Pendennis Club was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Our special thanks to the Pendennis Club and the University of Louisville Archives and Photographic Archives for the use of their images.

Program 521
In celebration of Armed Forces Day, an overview of Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. Plus, a gathering of friends with a vintage twist; the history of The Pendennis Club; and a visit to Highland House Bed and Breakfast on the Ohio River. (#521)