Founded in 1912, Cloister Inn fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, encourages its members to make their mark, and inspires members to use the Inn as a starting point for whatever pursuits impassion them. With a membership that has attracted more Olympic athletes over the years than any other eating club, Cloister Inn is a community that promotes success and happiness for all of its members, whether they are Olympians or not.
Members of Cloister Inn — or Innmates, as we like to call them — take full advantage of our offerings from day one of joining as sophomores. Whether that means requesting a new item for our dinner menu rotation, spontaneously organizing a hot tub party, getting a fire going in the hearth, or simply catching a nap on one of the many incredibly comfortable sofas in the house, members are always encouraged to make use of every amenity the club has to offer. Cloister Inn is also unique in providing leadership opportunities to every member of the club, whether they’re a new sophomore member or a second-semester senior.
If you’d like to learn more about Cloister Inn, come by 65 Prospect Avenue, where the door’s always open, and everybody knows your name!
More About Cloister Inn
- Cloister Inn is a Collegiate Gothic-style mansion located at 65 Prospect Avenue, built from the local stone used in many of the University’s dormitories. Drawing on medieval English precedents, the Inn’s architecture contributes to its rustic, cozy atmosphere: iron chandeliers light the dining room, soft leather couches sit in every corner, a massive stone hearth warms the living room. There is no better place to spend a cold day.
Our popular billiards room, home to many friendly competitions between members, is recently refurbished. More importantly, it’s also now home to our Wall of Olympians — the Inn’s new tribute to our 24-and-counting Innmates who have represented their countries in the Olympic Games. From Tokyo 1962 to London 2012, from cycling and swimming to fencing and rowing, we’re honored to have these legendary athletes among us, and we’re looking forward to expanding the Wall with some new additions after Rio 2016.
In response to increasing member demand for educational facilities at the Inn, Cloister’s second-floor library is also newly renovated to maximize space for both quiet studying and collaborative group work. Finally, the third floor is home to two TV rooms where you can find members relaxing after dinner or catching a nap.
Outside, our backyard is one of the biggest on the Street, with a volleyball court that fills up with energetic Innmates in warmer weather. And, yes, as you may have heard, we are the only club on the Street with a hot tub.
If you’d like to take a tour of the Inn and see for yourself what Cloister Inn is like when we’re not on tap, email club President Sam Smiddy (ssmiddy@) or Vice President Allie Diamond (ad12@) and we’ll have you over for a meal.
- Some of our more legendary social events have been Cloister traditions for decades — something we’re very proud of — and our outdoor events during Freshman Week are one of the most beloved traditions for Princetonians celebrating the start to a new school year. And in accordance with our belief that every Innmate can be a leader within Cloister, members are highly encouraged to organize their own impromptu events, whether it’s a Game of Thrones viewing, a billiards match, or a party in the hot tub.
Yet we’re not afraid to get a bit more dignified, with our members-only wine tastings drawing great amounts of excitement, and our Winter Formals, Spring Houseparties, and regular semiformals are highly anticipated occasions on the social calendar.
- Simply put, the members of Cloister Inn appreciate food and Executive Chef Happy Hatab delivers big time! Happy joined Cloister this past summer, bringing years of experience from some of Philadelphia’s best and most innovative restaurants. Happy serves exactly what our members have asked for: fresh ingredients, a focus on healthy recipes to fuel an active lifestyle, and boundary-pushing creativity that introduces members to new cuisines and concepts.
Happy’s farm-to-table philosophy makes sure the members of Cloister Inn consistently dine on high-quality food that will remind you of home cooking, not a dining hall, and which strikes a balance between comfort food and an attention to healthy ingredients in order to satisfy all palates. Members consistently rave about Happy’s entrees, sides, and desserts, including his popular vegetarian options –plus daytime (and nightly) snacks are a huge hit!
Thursday night members’ dinners are the best dinners served anywhere at Princeton, on par with what you would find at a fine dining restaurant. With skirt steaks, fresh seafood, a fully loaded salad bar, delicious desserts, and select bottled beers and wine, members’ dinners are the perfect way to celebrate the end of the week and begin transitioning into the weekend.
The responsiveness of Cloister Inn’s kitchen to the requests of the members may be the most unique aspect of dining at Cloister. Our culinary team actively responds to requests for specific dishes from the membership (no matter how obscure) through an online suggestion box and makes sure to add them on the menu. Moreover, dishes can always be made to order for members who have specific dietary restrictions or who just want something different on a whim.
Our locally sourced products include fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, poultry, and meats. Fresh baked breads, muffins, bagels, and scones are delivered daily from New York City bakeries. Gluten-free products are always available.
- Cloister Inn, Princeton’s 16th eating club, was founded in 1912. It initially occupied Cottage Club’s second building, which had been recently vacated by Tower Club. Cloister remained in this structure through the first World War, selling it to the now-defunct Court Club in 1920. The funds from this sale were used to purchase the current Cloister lot, between Cap and Gown and Charter. Cloister had begun contemplating a new home as early as 1920 and rejected two designs before settling on a third by Robert Henry Scannell ’15; the building was completed in 1924.
In 1972, Cloister closed temporarily and became an alternate dining facility for underclass students as well as an alumni center. This was short-lived, however, because in 1977 a student initiative reopened the building as an eating club, and it has been in operation ever since. An expansion in the 1980s added the billiards room and outdoor deck as well as increased the space in the dining hall.
In the mid-1990s Cloister Inn was the site of one of the Street’s greatest revival stories, with a “takeover” by a coalition of students looking for a new home on Prospect Avenue that would give them the lively social life they were looking for without a restrictive barrier to entry that would divide them from their roommates, teammates, and friends.. In the two decades since the legendary Class of 1996, Cloister has maintained this core identity: The most fun you’ll have on campus, whether highbrow or lowbrow or something in between, with a close-knit group of fellow Innmates who will be your loyal friends for life.
Cloister Inn featured prominently in Ian Caldwell (Cloister ‘98) and Dustin Thomason’s bestselling suspense novel “The Rule Of Four,” in which several fictional characters were members. (Spoiler alert: Though one of Princeton’s eating clubs burns down in “The Rule Of Four,” it isn’t Cloister.)
Over the decades, dozens Cloister Inn’s alumni have gone on to world-class accomplishments in business, politics, and the arts; we count Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan ‘81, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer ‘81, novelist Jodi Picoult ‘87, Sirius Satellite Radio co-founder Robert Briskman ‘54, and screenwriter Craig Mazin ‘92 among our notable Innmates.
When Cloister Inn’s alumni go on to great things, we love to celebrate their accomplishments — just take a look at our Wall of Olympians, which features alumni from two-time rowing gold medalist Caroline Lind ‘06 to Olympic cyclist and current USA Cycling CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall ‘92. (Back issues of our twice-yearly newsletter, the Innsider, are available online for anyone who wants to learn about what some of our alumni have been up to.)
But you need not be a leader in the business world or a renowned athlete to know that as a member of Cloister, you are an Innmate for life. To that end, our members are welcomed back to the Inn on regular occasions for exclusive events that help them connect with one another as well as make new friends from other classes. Our Reunions and Homecoming receptions draw hundreds of alumni back to the clubhouse, and alumni in cities around the world regularly hold gatherings in their homes to reconnect with Innmates young and old. Alumni are also invited to participate in Cloister’s future in ways that go beyond traditional financial support, with dozens of alumni returning every summer for Cloisterfest, our annual renovations (and celebrations) weekend that is unique on the Street.
Alumni affairs at Cloister Inn are managed by our Graduate Board of Trustees, who have a hands-on approach to the past, present, and future of the club. Our Board leadership — chair Caroline McCarthy ‘06 and vice chair Michael Rudolph ‘96 — invites any and all inquiries from alumni, members, and prospective members alike.