The Athenaeum Club was founded during the political crises of 1868 as a neutral meeting place where 'gentlemen of character and intelligence may meet together irrespective of class distinction or personal wealth'. To avoid blackballing, election was by committee. The club brought together professional men, civil servants and merchants who shared scientific and literary interests (hence the choice of name). At first there were evenings devoted to music, literature and science. By 1878 the membership was described as chiefly mercantile and the character of the club had presumably altered. The club was a proprietary institution, first owned by versatile entrepreneur J.G. Knight. The club's earliest house was at 26 Collins Street East (near the present Centreway); its second, from 1891, at 290-292 Collins Street (the site of the Block Arcade); and its third and present site, from 1930, at 83-87 Collins Street, where a clubhouse was built to the design of Cedric Ballantyne. The Athenaeum ceased to be a proprietary club when the Moorhead family sold it to its members in 1918. Composed now mainly of professional and business people, the Athenaeum is one of the three principal clubs in Melbourne.