Established in 1891, the Quartette Club, a non-profit men’s charitable and social club, is marking 125 years in 2016.
The club, located at 225 Wooster St., got its name because it used to be a German singing group, according to immediate past president Toby Rhinesmith, a member for 19 years.
“Back in the day they used to have German clubs throughout Connecticut and they would gather a couple times a year and have these singing contests, which are kind of alien to us now,” said Rhinesmith with a laugh.
“Originally it was a German club and you had to be German to be a member, but now it is just a general organization and general social club,” added Rhinesmith. “So you don’t have to be German anymore or from New Britain to be a member.”
The club has some 200 members from “literally around the country,” according to Rhinesmith, who noted there are members who have retired and moved down to Florida but still maintain their club membership.
“We have quality members—they are really active and really involved and focused on the club and keeping it going and being involved and we couldn’t do it without our members,” explained Rhinesmith. “For example, when we rent out the club guys go up there and volunteer their time and clean up the hall afterwards.”
Charity is a “big focus of our mission,” noted Rhinesmith. “We have a spaghetti dinner to raise money for our scholarship dinner and we hold raffles throughout the year,” he added. “And then people also donate including local businesses.”
The scholarship fund—which awarded $750 scholarships to four deserving New Britain High and EC Goodwin students last month—is named in honor of late Quartette Club member Kevin Koch.
“Kevin was a plumber and grew up in New Britain and went to EC Goodwin so we named it in honor of him—the Kevin Koch Memorial Scholarship Fund,” explained Rhinesmith. “It is basically targeted to kids that want to go into the trades, including plumbing, culinary arts, and carpentry. We had a banquet for the winners and their families came and it is always June 13—that was Kevin’s birthday.”
The club also does a Thanksgiving food drive and members donate toys to local charities during the holiday season. “We bring the toys down to the Salvation Army or the Friendship Center in New Britain because we try to keep all our donations local—we try to focus on local organizations in New Britain,” said Rhinesmith. “We are always focused on giving back to the community.”
By being involved with the club, Rhinesmith noted that it gives him a chance to help out a number of good causes as well as spend some time with longtime friends, whom he described as “a bunch of guys I went to kindergarten with,” as well as Lincoln School and New Britain High School.
“One of my buddies, his grandfather was a longtime member and so through him we kind of all became members,” Rhinesmith continued, noting one needs to be sponsored by a club member they know in order to join. “And we all live in different places but we are all still members of the club—it’s kind of our way to keep up with each other.”
The club is also a gathering spot for the general public, as it is rented out for various events such as family reunions, anniversary parties, birthday parties and retirement parties (but no stag parties!).
“We have the hall but we also have on the outside the pavilion, with the barbecue pit and we have sand volleyball, horseshoes and botchy ball, so people can have a good time and utilize our facilities and not have to get their own house dirty,” said Rhinesmith.
Looking ahead, the club plans on marking 125 years during the holiday season. “Right before Christmas we usually have an open house and kind of a Christmas party for members and this year we are really going to try to step it up because of the 125th,” said Rhinesmith.
“Usually we have food, including kielbasa and chicken, but we are going to try and step it up this year with some better food, some shrimp and steaks or whatever, and also try to get a professional photographer and get a big group photo of all the members,” he continued. “We want to mark 125 years with a nice event.”
A capital campaign is also in the works. “The place has been there for over 100 years and roofs need replacing and air conditioners go and things like that, so in connection with the 125th we wanted to get a capital campaign going and try to focus on the physical aspects of the building,” said Rhinesmith.
For more information on the club, please visit quartetteclub.org.