Following the Civil War, Toledo's businessmen gathered in simple taverns to discuss trade and enjoy camaraderie. Among this pioneering group was David Ross Locke, Toledo Blade publisher, famed nationally as Petroleum V. Nasby, whose letters on slavery and temperance were widely read and especially noted by President Lincoln.
In 1879, Mr. Locke proposed the formation of a regular club for the group. The name "Draconian" was selected. Mr. Locke was elected the first president of the Club and on May 15, 1882, The Draconian Club was incorporated. Notables of this founding group include: Edward Drummond Libbey, founder of The Toledo Museum of Art, the Owens Bottle Company and the Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company (later known as Owens-Illinois and Libbey-Owens-Ford respectively); John North Willys, president and founder of the Willys-Overland Company; Michael Joseph Owens, who together with Libbey, organized the Toledo Glass Company (later the Owens Bottle Company); and Morrison R. Waite, seventh chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
In 1889, the thriving membership, then limited to 350, changed the name to The Toledo Club and erected a fine brownstone and brick building on the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and Huron Street. The Club began its stand as one of the outstanding city clubs in the nation. During its long history, it has played host to pivotal business deals, lavish dinners and irresistible intrigue, including a secret panel used to hide beverages during Prohibition in the Roaring 20s. Among those frequently entertained at The Toledo Club was William McKinley, congressman throughout many of those years, until his election as governor of Ohio and finally President of the United States in 1897. Other presidents who passed over its threshold are Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.
After a quarter of a century of service, the clubhouse was outgrown and the need for a more adequate building was apparent. At first it was thought to enlarge the building, but after much debate, the members courageously decided to purchase a site on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 14th Street to construct a new building. To finance the project, the Club issued $250,000 in first mortgage bonds and $200,000 in second mortgage bonds, of which Mr. John N. Willys agreed to take a large share. The first building was sold for about $200,000. During the transition period the Club was housed in the Old Tavern Hotel on St. Clair Street, and in 1915 the Club had rooms in the Hotel Secor.
On June 15, 1915, the new $500,000 clubhouse was formally opened on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 14th Street. The handsome five story edifice was immediately acclaimed as one of the most notable and beautiful works of architecture in the city. Designed by architect Lawrence Bellman in the style of late Georgian Revival, the walls are made of Harvard brick and the stonework is Indiana limestone.
Originally exclusively for men, The Toledo Club's Main Dining Room opened to women in 1920.
In 1924, a $172,000 athletic wing was added to provide a wide range of recreational facilities. The project included a gymnasium with a basketball court on the top floor. Also installed was a full-length swimming pool which later attracted championship calibre events, such as exhibitions by world champions Johnny Weissmuller and Eleanor Holm. In 1956, The Toledo Club Swim Team won the Ohio State AAU age group championship. The ground floor of the addition consisted of a four-lane bowling alley and five squash courts, used by a lively inner group of over 100 young members. The first squash champion, Martin L. Newhall, in 1926 and 1927, also succeeded in winning the National Squash Championship.
Over the years, several renovations have been made to accomodate the membership's needs. The gymnasium and some original sleeping rooms were converted to dining rooms. Private parking for the Club was greatly enhanced by the purchase of the former Trianon Ballroom that was behind the structure.
Although various changes and improvements have been made, all were in keeping with the original objectives and mission of the founders. These, and the ongoing projects, will ensure the Club's position in the 21st century as Toledo's premier social and business destination.