The Athenaeum Club by Decimus Burton. 1824. Waterloo Place and Pall Mall, London. When the club was first built in 1830, it had two stories; another was added later. Photograph by George P. Landow July 2005; camera position: the Crimean War monument across Pall Mall. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Athenæum and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one

The Athenaeum, which Richard Saul Wurman describes "as unforgetably beautiful" (51), faces what was originally The United Service Club by John Nash and Decimus Burton (1828), which was originally founded for military officers who had fought in the Napoleonic Wars and now houses the Institute of Directors. The Athenaeum, as it turns out, also had a relation to Britain's conquest of Napoleon, for as Ian Jenkins of the British Museum, points out

The Athenaeum was founded in 1824 as a 'Club for Literary and Scientific men and followers of the Fine arts.' The building rose in 1829-30 as part of the new civic architecture in Greek style by which London was embellished after the battle of Waterloo. Following the defeat of Napoloneon, whose ambition was to transfer Rome to Paris, Britannia Victrix had sought a different model from Antiquity by which to shape her capital city. She found it in the democratic society of Periclean Athens. On the balcony over the porch of the Athenaeum, Pallas Athena — a close replica by E. H. Baily of the Athena Belletri — was set up to preside over Waterloo Place. She was the warrior goddess of wisdom and patron deity of ancient Athens. [p. 149] Inside, on the staircase, a copy of the Apollo Belvedere, commander of the nine muses, stands watch over this modern museion. In niches of the flank walks of the entrance hall were casts of two statues then as now, in the Louvre, the so-called Venus Genetrix and the Diane de Gabies.

Past members include Joseph Conrad, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, W. Holman Hunt, Thomas Huxley, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Leighton, John Ruskin, and many members of the Anglican clergy.

References

Tait, Hugh, and Richard Walker with contributions by Sarah Dodgson, Ian Jenkins, and Ralph Pinder-Wilson. The Athenaeum Collection. London: The Athenaeum, 2000. [This volume may be ordered from the Librarian, The Athenaeum, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5 ER.]

Wurman, Richard Saul. London Access. 3rd edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.


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Last modified 21 August 2005