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Faced with dwindling members, Batavia Club to fold after 125 years

The Batavia Club, the city's oldest private club, will end a 125-year run this week because of declining membership and interest, members decided Monday at the annual meeting, according to Benjamin C. Mancuso, the club's president.

The club, founded in 1882, initially met in the home of Daniel W. Tomlinson, a prominent businessman and banker.

When the building burned, the club leased and later purchased the former Bank of Genesee in downtown Batavia, its home since then.

For nine years, the two-story Federal style brick building, erected in 1831, had housed the area's only bank, believed to be the first bank west of the Genesee River.

It was the work of Hezekiah Eldredge, Rochester's master builder, who later built the U.S. Bank of Buffalo and the Lockport Bank. Business was conducted on the first floor, and the banker and his family lived upstairs

At its peak, the Batavia Club had more than 200 members. But the city lost population as well as major industries and downtown retailers. By 1996, the club's membership had dropped to 80.

In 2002, the building -- named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 -- was given to the Genesee Orleans Arts Council and became its cultural center. The former main dining room is now an art gallery. Second-floor space was converted into offices for cultural groups.

For five years, the club -- down to 40 members -- retained a dining room, bar and kitchen for lunches, card games and parties.

The only private social clubs remaining in Batavia are fraternal, led by the Elks, and veterans organizations, with the oldest being the American Legion.

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