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History of The New York Caledonian Club

In 1856, New York City was an urban frontier. This growing merchant city offered many opportunities for fortunes to be made by individuals who understood the complications of the commercial world. To thrive in here, one must be hardworking, resourceful, thrifty, and have a fair amount of luck. It was a harsh environment and not all could succeed.

The wealthy lived in tall brick and brownstone houses, the poor in tenements, and the rising middle class often lived above their business premises. New Yorkers were optimistic about the future and no one could predict the tragedy to come just a few years later, that would threaten the very existence of the Union.

Many New Yorkers sought to affiliate themselves with their fellow city dwellers for social reasons – today, we refer to this as "networking". It was soon realized that a social club based on national affinity could be of great value in building a secure future for Scottish immigrants and their descendants. Among them were lawyers, tradesmen, manufacturers, clergymen, printers, merchants, furniture makers, and members of many other trades and professions. Wives often worked alongside their husbands to help them better their families' lives.

The 79th New York Highland Regiment

The Nation's only kilted Regiment in the Civil War, was recruited largely from the Club’s membership. They fought in many battles during the Civil War, including the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, serving under Colonel James Cameron, whose brother, Simon Cameron, was Lincoln's Secretary of War.

General Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States, later became an honorary member of the Veteran's Association of the 79th New York Highland Regiment.

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Highland Games

Many Scottish ex-pats in New York City sought to find others with whom they celebrate, share, and promote the life and culture of their beloved homeland. Members of the Highland Guard, organized after the War of 1812, founded an early Caledonian Club in 1830, with most of the membership consisting of those who immigrated directly from Scotland, including one of the founders of today's Caledonian Club, Captain William Manson. Manson was from Thurso in Caithness. In 1856, The New York Caledonian Club had its first meeting at his home at 256 Spring Street at the corner of Varick Street - then a neighborhood of fine row houses. The first Chief of the Club was Alexander Fraser, elected in 1857.

The Club held its first Highland Games in 1857, a tradition which continued annually until 1933. Many colleges and universities sent their best athletes to compete in the Games to win coveted prizes. Several members chose curling as their sport, often traveling to competitive curling events in New Jersey.

The New York Caledonian Club flourished in the late 1800s, meeting at various locations, including in downtown Manhattan's Horatio Street.

The Club inaugurated its new home at 846 Seventh Avenue (at 54th Street) in October 1898. The building was built of marble, stone, and brick in a Renaissance style, with clubrooms included a gymnasium, Roman bath, a bowling alley, and storage for the bicycles of "wheelmen" members. There was also a small indoor green for members to sharpen their golf skills. The interior was in the dignified yet warm wood-paneled style, appropriate for a club of that era. Andrew Carnegie, who had donated a library to the Club, was present to dedicate the building, and received a gold key and a warm reception from the members.

Post World War II...

The New York Caledonian Club became inactive, except in the memories of former members and in the Club archives. More contemporary interests had replaced the fellowship ideals of many of the old clubs of New York.

The Club was revived on the June 24th, 1981, a date known as Bannockburn Night in commemoration of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 near Stirling Castle. At this battle, the Scots defeated the English forces under the command of Robert the Bruce. The modern Tartan Day also celebrates the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) which asserted Scottish independence. An independent Scotland was finally recognized in 1328 in the Treaty of Northampton, signed by Robert the Bruce and Edward II of England.

New York Caledonian Club Chiefs Timeline

2000s - Current

1900 - 1999

1856 - 1899

  • Alexander_Fraser

    Alexander Fraser

    1856 - 1st Chief
  • George Mitchell

    George Mitchell

    1864 - 1865, 1870 : 5th & 9th Chief
  • John Watt

    John Watt

    1871 - 1872 : 10th Chief
  • John_McMillan

    John McMillan

    1884 - 20th Chief
  • Andrew Halladay

    Andrew Halladay

    1889 : 24th Chief
  • James Robb

    James Robb

    1897 - 1898 : 30th Chief
  • Neil Mackay

    Neil Mackay

    1906 - 1907 : 35th Chief
  • James R Donaldson

    James R. Donaldson

    1920 - 21 & 1945 : 43rd & 56th Chief
  • Nancy London Crutcher

    Nancy London Crutcher

    1984 : 62nd Chief
  • Brian MacDonald

    Brian C. Macdonald

    1988 - 1989 : 65th Chief
  • Bruce_Martin

    Bruce L. Martin

    1990 - 1991 : 66th Chief
  • Jim Campbell

    James R. Campbell

    2001 : 73rd Chief
  • Christopher Pratt

    Christopher Pratt

    2002 - 2003 : 74th Chief
  • George Campbell

    George A. Campbell

    1994, 1999 - 2000, 2006 - 2007 : 68th, 72nd & 76th Chief
  • Andrew Macmillan

    Andrew Macmillan

    2004 - 2005, 2008 : 75th & 77th Chief
  • John_Mauk_Hilliard

    John Mauk Hilliard

    2011 - 2012 : 79th Chief
  • John B MacDonald

    John B. MacDonald

    1992 - 93, 1995 - 96, 2013 - 14 : 67th, 70th & 80th Chief
  • Lee Harwell

    Lee Harwell

    2015 : 81st Chief
  • Lesley MacLennan Denninger

    Lesley MacLennan Denninger

    2016 : 82nd Chief
  • Chief Sue Ann Mcdevitt

    Sue Ann Mcdevitt

  • lorraine-bell-chief

    Lorraine Bell

  • Patricia-Klecanda

    Patricia Klecanda