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The Cosmos Club is a private club located in Washington, DC. Founded in 1876, the Cosmos Club states that it is dedicated to the intellectual advancement of science, literature, and art among its active members. Through the years since it was established, the Cosmos Club has held numerous high-profile denizens of Washington, DC, and continues to do so today. The club’s current clubhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 3rd, 1973.

  • A view of the clubhouse in 2010 ((By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons))
  • Mid-20th century photos of the club and its study room
  • Dining room as seen today
  • 1915 photo of the entrance to the Townsend Home before it became the new and current home of the club. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
  • 1921 photo of the club's first home, the Corcoran Building on the corner of 15th and F Streets, N.W. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
  • Undated photo of club members. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

In 1876, John Wesley Powell, along with four other men, founded the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC, with the intention of forming a sophisticated, intellectual social club for the elite of the capital city. It was not until 1950 that the Cosmos Club purchased their current clubhouse, otherwise known as Townsend House. Townsend House itself was commissioned by Richard H. Townsend for himself and his wife in 1898, and construction on the house was completed in 1900. Upon its completion, Townsend House became a focal point for social life in Washington, DC until Richard’s untimely death in 1902. The house was then left to his wife and their daughter Mathilde. Upon Mrs. Townsend’s passing, Mathilde and her husband inherited the home. The two lived there until Mathilde’s death in 1949. After her passing, her husband sold the home to the Cosmos Club that same year.

Before acquiring Townsend House, the Cosmos Club had occupied a number of other buildings in the years since its founding, but the Townsend House was set to be their permanent residence. Renovations were made to the house over the years in order to fulfill the needs of the club, including expansions to the house in general. On April 3rd, 1973, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Cosmos Club. Today, the renovated Townsend House building still serves as the active clubhouse for the Cosmos Club. 

Its members have included: Spaulding, Thomas M. (1949). The Cosmos Club on Lafayette Square. Washington, D.C.: The Cosmos Club. Crossette, George (1966). Founders of The Cosmos Club of Washington, 1878. Washington, D.C.: The Cosmos Club. Washburn, Wilcomb E. (1978). The Cosmos Club of Washington : a centennial history, 1878–1978. Washington, D.C.: The Cosmos Club.