The Athenaeum is a private membership club that first opened its doors on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in 1930. The club has grown with the Institute but remains faithful to the vision of its founders, whose purpose was to promote a social, cultural, and intellectual exchange.
In ancient Greece, the word “Athenaeum” referred to buildings dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and in particular, a temple in Athens where poets, philosophers, and orators gathered to read and discuss their work.
As early as 1921, George Ellery Hale, renowned astronomer, Caltech Trustee, and Director of Mount Wilson Observatory, envisioned a club modeled after The Athenaeum in London.
In 1929, Mr. And Mrs. Allan C. Balch presented the Institute with a gift of stocks to establish the club. Those stocks were converted to $500,000 in cash just before the stock market crash to build The Athenaeum. The style of The Athenaeum was known as the “California style” of architecture. The Athenaeum was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, who freely interpreted the Mediterranean style adapted to the climate and lifestyle of Southern California.