“Whenever I enter this club, I feel happy inside.” Herman A. Heydt ’29
Cap and Gown prides itself on the diversity of its members. People from all different backgrounds, teams, groups, and activities all come together to be a part of the unique experience that defines Cap. Bicker at Cap is a fun, exciting, low-pressure environment where bickerees are encouraged to meet the members through a variety of games, events and activities organized by members. Cap Bicker is what you want to make of it. Everyone interested is encouraged to come out, be themselves, and enjoy the camaraderie of getting to know each other in an incredibly unique and fun way.
Cap, like all of the clubs on the Street, enthusiastically participates in Lawnparties, Winter Formals, and Houseparties festivities. In addition to these staple events, Cap members also get to enjoy a Casino night or Fall Formal during the fall semester, a Valentine’s Day semi-formal during the spring semester, and a whole slew of themed social gatherings throughout the year. While social events are important to the membership, there are many more things for Cap members to do together. We also have exciting members’ nights including Cap Mondays, Movie Wednesdays, and Fire Fridays where members are encouraged to hang out in the club outside of meals.
Cap members can also put the “eating” in eating club; and with Chef Greg, Big Mike and the rest of the crew cooking up delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners, it’s not uncommon to find members and guests going back for seconds or thirds at meals. Thursday Dinner Club Nights are members only affairs with special meals and themed drinks- ranging from French Cuisine Night to Asian Fusion.
Bicker at Cap is a fun-loving, welcoming process that gives you the chance to get to know members and members a chance to get to know you through a series of games and conversations. Bring an adventurous and willing attitude and you’ll have a great time.
More About Cap and Gown
The Cap and Gown clubhouse was built in 1908 and was designed by Raleigh Gildersleeve, who also designed a number of other well-known Princeton landmarks including McCosh 50 and the dining hall at the Graduate College. Our historic building remained essentially unchanged until 100 years later when the club launched a very successful campaign to renovate and expand the club. Thanks to this effort by our loyal alumni, Cap and Gown Club is now bigger and more beautiful than ever with a new wing that includes a spectacular new dining room and taproom.
On the first floor, Cap has a comfy living room with fireplace, a sunporch, our historic dining room, an expanded servery, and our new dining room. The new dining room, equipped with a powerful speaker system, fits nearly two hundred people and is great for parties and dances. The sunroom is a favorite spot to study- and sometimes people will nap in the living room while the more musically-inclined members play tunes and sing around the piano.
Downstairs, Cap has a brand-new taproom featuring a granite-topped bar, four taps, a television, a speaker system and a jukebox for a wide array of nighttime activities and fun. Cap members love all different types of music and games – so whether you’re into dancing, chatting with friends, or just relaxing – the taproom is a favorite for everyone.
On the second floor, members study in our beautiful library, use the computers and printer in the computer room, challenge each other to a game of pool in the pool room, and watch TV in the dangerously comfortable TV room. The second floor bathroom was recently renovated and is now positively elegant. Our second floor roof deck provides the perfect place to hang out on warm, sunny days.
Outside, our recent renovation included the addition of a beautiful, landscaped courtyard flanked by double decker balconies. This is the scene for fall tailgates, tent parties, and Cap’s famous outdoor barbecues (with our enormous outdoor grill).
Cap and Gown Club was founded in 1891 by a group of undergraduates from the Class of 1893 who had formed an eating society called the “Oliver Twist Club.” With some help from the godfather of so many of the clubs, Moses Taylor Pyne, Class of 1877, the group was reborn as Cap and Gown. Under the direction of Thomas O. Speir, Class of 1887, the new club constructed a building for itself on the south side of Prospect Avenue, across from the University Field, on the lot that Cap still occupies. (Cap and Gown thus holds the distinction of being the only one of Princeton’s eating clubs to stay in the same geographic location for its entire existence.)
Speir’s design called for a modest cottage with a gambrel roof and a wide front porch. It was completed in March 1892, but within three years, Cap and Gown had outgrown it and sought to build a larger structure. The Speir building was moved across the street to a location near the eastern corner of Olden Street and Prospect Avenue, approximately where the Mudd Library stands today.
The smallest purpose-built clubhouse at Princeton, this building played a key role in the development of the club system. In its Olden Street location, this building was the famous “Incubator,” so called because it served as the birthplace to a series of emerging clubs, including Cannon, Campus, Charter, Terrace, and Tower. Other clubs temporarily occupied the Incubator while their own clubhouses were under construction or renovation.
Cap and Gown, meanwhile, commissioned Boston architect William Ralph Emerson to design a new and more elegant clubhouse in 1895. Emerson was a noted practitioner of the shingle style, but in this structure looked to other models. The rendering for the building shows a distinctly Italianate Revival influence, especially in the pair of large arched windows on the facade and the second-floor balconies. In reviewing the finished structure, the Princetonian noted that “it is nearly square in form and rises two and one-half stories, the first being of blue Lancaster granite, and the second of stucco with ornamental rubble finish.” Of the Prospect Avenue clubs, only Tiger Inn (1893-5) featured this kind of mixed media on the exterior.
In December 1896, Cap and Gown moved in, but within a decade it felt compelled to build again. Ivy and Cottage had completed their grand new clubhouses and Colonial and Cap soon followed suit. Cap selected Raleigh Gildersleeve, a prominent architect with much experience in Princeton, to design its new clubhouse. The Emerson building was moved away (to be taken over by Dial Lodge).
Gildersleeve offered a new style for an eating club: a kind of French-influenced or Norman Gothic, built of brick. It was T-shaped, with the long side facing Prospect Avenue and the short side on the west end. In case the club needed to expand, Gildersleeve noted, it could construct a second wing to the east. This placement also offered fine views to the south from the large veranda that runs all the way across the rear of the building.
In an article published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 1908, Gildersleeve discussed his plan for the club:
“The facades, in style and use of materials, are somewhat different from anything in Princeton. The general effect is of the minor Normandy chateaux. In the main the lines have been kept as simple as possible, but at the entrance doorway and over the windows of the dining room bay the stonework has been enriched with carving in the Gothic fashion, somewhat florid and fanciful. The walls are of brick, very dark and glazed for the most part, but with as much variety in color as could conveniently be obtained. The texture of the bricks is rough and their shape quite irregular”.
Gildersleeve added that “an effect of irregularity, simplicity, and individuality was thus obtained which could not be achieved in any other way.” Gildersleeve also supervised the planting of a row of Lombardy poplars on either side of the building.
Cap and Gown was completed in 1908. For all of Gildersleeve’s expressed intentions of “simplicity,” it is the most ornamented of all the eating clubs and in scale and elegance ranks with the other clubhouses of the period. Cap and Gown would also influence future construction on Prospect in its use of dark brick and Gothic models.
Cap and Gown Club boasts the most active alumni organization of any of the eating clubs. In our recent fundraising efforts, 47% of our loyal alumni contributed to the renovation and expansion of the clubhouse. The fundraising campaign was an effort that brought alumni together more than ever with a series of celebrations as each goal was reached on the road to completing the project successfully.
Cap hosts alumni events all year long including a fall homecoming celebration, Alumni Day reception in February, Cap Night at the Princeton Club of New York, and a Big Reunions Open House after the P-rade. Hundreds of Cap members return for Homecoming and Reunions when we all enjoy the fabulous station party buffet put on by Dennis Normile, our club steward, and our great kitchen crew and club staff.
When you join Cap and Gown, you don’t just join for your junior and senior year – you meet friends for a lifetime and are a member for life!
- Club Steward
Dennis Normile has been Cap and Gown’s Club Steward and our fearless leader for over 35 years. He is a manager, a chef, a mentor, a disciplinarian (oh yes) when needed, and the ultimate party planner. Cap’s parties – whether it’s Winter Formals, Casino Night, House Parties, or any other theme party – are made all the more special thanks to his gifts as both a chef and an artist. He can whip up a feast, carve an ice sculpture, and paint extraordinary backdrops for any theme. He is also a musician (drummer) and an expert dog trainer. Most of all, he is Cap’s best friend and most fun sitting around telling stories about Cap lore.
- Service and Sustainability
Cap and Gown initiates and participates in community service projects all year long. Recent service projects include:
- Participating in the 2017 Spring Truckfest
- Hosting Big and Little Sibs where kids could come connect with members at the club.
Cap and Gown was the first club to create a position for a Sustainability Chair. This has been followed by other clubs, and the clubs are all now focused on finding ways to save energy, recycle as much as possible, and reduce waste.