Our History

Our History

Wamsutta founder Clifford (1866)

    In 1866, baseball was already an established, popular sport in the United States. The New York Knickerbocker's version, invented in 1845 by Mr. Alexander Cartwright, was relatively new. The New York version was limited to New York City until the arrival of the Civil War, when men from other parts of the country learned to play the game in Union Army camps. 


    Mr. Charles Warren Clifford, then a graduate student of Harvard College, organized an athletic club in 1866 to play the new baseball. That was the beginning of the Wamsutta Club.     


    Baseball, at the time, was a social sport, played by professional men who could take afternoons off. The Wamsutta Club soon evolved into a social club. The original clubrooms were in the old Ricketson block on Purchase Street. In 1880, the club moved to the old Masonic building on Pleasant and Union Street. After being formally chartered in 1889, the club moved once again to the former Perry House, at Union and County Streets, across from the present location.     


    By 1925, the club needed more meeting space. The present building, an established, New Bedford landmark, was constructed in 1821 by Mr. James Arnold. Mr. Arnold died in 1868. The property went to his wife's nephew, Mr. William J. Rotch, who moved in with his family in 1872. Mr. Rotch died in 1893; his widow lived in the mansion until her death in the year 1919.     


     The Wamsutta Club purchased the Arnold Mansion House, as it was, and is, known. Two large wings were added to the north and south; squash courts were added to the west.    


   Between 1890 and 1925, the club was an important rendezvous for area businessmen, serving in the flourishing, textile industry. There is no way to estimate the number of bales of cotton that were bought and sold during meetings among the club members.     


    When the Great Depression struck and the textile industry declined, the club faced declining membership. Dues were reduced, the membership was re-established on a broader base, and the club's programs were expended to meet the needs of a changing community.     


   Today, the Wamsutta Club offers members and guests fine food and personalized service in the comfort of its distinguished surroundings.