Wilmington Whist Club
It was late in the nineteenth century when a group of Wilmington business and professional men with an interest in the card game known as "whist" founded the Wilmington Whist Club. The Club was organized December 7, 1891, and incorporated in 1895. The rules were eminently uncomplicated; no drinking or gambling was permitted in the clubhouse and no women.
The first clubhouse was located at 1103 Gilpin Avenue; it was rented for $37.50 per month. In March of 1892 the Club moved and rented 1305 West Thirteenth Street. On July 15, 1895 the Wilmington Whist Club entered a new phase of development when it purchased the building at 1303 West Thirteenth Street, providing a permanent home and a base upon which a viable membership could be built.
Membership grew to 145 in 1906, 150 in 1907, and 175 in 1909. Whist was a four-player game, cards were dealt one at a time with the last card to the dealer, being turned to determine trump. One point was scored for each trick in excess of six, and sometimes additional points were given for the ace, king, queen and jack of trumps. Shortly after its formation, the Wilmington Whist Club joined the American Whist League and members entered area tournaments.
The era of whist was passing, however, as auction bridge captured the interest of increasing numbers of players and this led to the Wilmington Whist Club resigning from the American Whist League in 1906. In 1927 a liaison of sorts was formed with the University Club of Wilmington when the Whist Club steward contracted scarlet fever. The clubhouse was closed and fumigated, and the Whist Club accepted the University Club's offer to use their meeting facilities. In 1929, the Wilmington Whist Club acquired a new clubhouse, the former residence of its first president, William H. Swift, at 1309 Delaware Avenue. This location had a billiard room and two bowling lanes along with facilities for a new game called contract bridge. Bridge came onto the American scene early in the 1890s and eventually led to the decline and fall of whist.
In 1925, Harold S. Vanderbilt, American multi-millionaire and three-time America's Cup winner, changed the course of bridge while on a cruise. He suggested that only tricks bid and made count toward game, with extra tricks counted as bonuses. These revised rules turned auction bridge into contract bridge. He succeeded so well that his game of contract bridge became the staple diet of card players everywhere. Bridge continues to occupy a position of great prestige, and is more comprehensively organized than any other card game.
University Club Of Wilmington
The University Club of Wilmington was incorporated on April 12, 1924 by a group of male college graduates who decided to join together "to promote friendship among college men, and to advance the interests of a liberal education." A clubhouse was established at 1311 Market Street, known as the Old Gibbons House, and was formally opened on July 1, 1924. At the outset, the Club comprised 250 members. When membership growth dictated larger quarters, the University Club moved to 1301 Market Street, holding an official house warming on September 13, 1927. In the mid-1930s, Francis V. du Pont, Jr. acquired the 805 North Broom Street property from the estate of J. Danforth Bush and leased it to the University Club. The Club moved into its new quarters on November 30, 1935 with a formal opening on December 11. During World War II, the clubhouse was filled to capacity with occupants - 25 to 35 residents, for the most part housed two to a room in the main building, and up to four in the carriage house.
During the 1950s, the University Club was the center of activity for young singles of Wilmington. Anne Rudquist explained why: "We had lived through the depression and through the deprivations of war when everything was rationed. When World War II ended, the men went back to college and, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, were graduating. Finally things were back to normal, people had money again, and we just had fun." Many residents of the Club were young professionals in Wilmington, men like the late William V. Roth, Jr., who became the senior United States Senator from Delaware. Another young professional at the time who frequented the Club was Charles Todderud. "One thing that impressed me was the intellectual level of the conversations at dinner," he recalled. "There would be Charles W. Todd, director of biochemical research at the du Pont Experimental Station, and Roger Horton, a patent attorney, and Joe Couglin, an engineer who had worked on the atomic bomb project when they developed the first radioactive pile. These guys had a wealth of information. They would talk about Einstein's Theory of Relativity and apparently understood what they were talking about. It probably was the high point of my life in exposure to intelligent conversation." It was a meeting place, an entertaining place, a respite after growing up in a stressed world.