The Hartford Club, a social hub for the city's upper crust that counts Mark Twain among past members, is launching its first modern advertising campaign to as it tries to overcome damage from the recession and a stuffy public image.
With its Georgian Revival architecture and elaborate chandeliers, the club in downtown Hartford harkens back to a time when Connecticut's capital and its insurance companies had a bigger part in American cultural and financial life.
As the club tries to recruit new members, its president, Brien Beakey, said he wants people to know the atmosphere inside has changed with the times.
"The other night we had a cigar dinner. We had about 50 guys smoking cigars, playing pool. There were women there as well," Beakey said. "It's a fun place. It's not a stuffy place anymore."
The Hartford Club, which was founded in 1873, offers dining, concierge-style services and other benefits to its roughly 520 members. Annual membership fees are around $1,380.
The club had seen its membership drop from well over 1,000 in the 1990s and was facing foreclosure before it resolved a bank loan last year. As rumors swirled about its financial situation, Beakey said people had been reluctant to book weddings or other events. But it managed to endure as other private clubs closed around Connecticut and the U.S. With finances on better footing, the club decided to begin advertising.
The campaign, including ads on several Connecticut television stations, casts the club as a place for young professionals to socialize and network with one another.
Hartford's new mayor, Luke Bronin, celebrated the club's comeback at an event Wednesday to unveil the new campaign.
"I hope it tracks a renaissance for Hartford more broadly," he said.
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