Bohemian Club – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

Bohemian Club

Longtime headquarters of controversial boys' club for the world's wealthiest and most powerful.  


The Bohemian Club was founded as an official regular meeting of journalists, artists, and musicians in 1872. The building’s exterior is adorned with plaques bearing owls and the Club’s motto, “Weaving spiders come not here,” just as it had when early members Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and Jack London roamed its halls. That soon changed, however, when local businessmen and entrepreneurs were granted admission.

Still headquartered today in its original location at Post and Taylor, it has become among the most exclusive men’s clubs and/or secret societies in the United States. Club standards remain so high that honorary membership is offered to only some United States presidents, usually bestowed prior to their inauguration, and a select coterie of international business leaders and policy-makers.

Every year the Bohemian Club holds a two-week-long gathering at their private forest in Sonoma County, Bohemian Grove. The notorious “camp” reunites members from around the world to participate in male bonding, unabashed bacchanalia, and debauchery such as relieving themselves on the surrounding redwood trees in a “display of man’s power over nature.” The half-sanctimonious Cremation of Cares opens the festivities, in which members figuratively (and sometimes literally) burn away the responsibilities of their outside lives.

The present corps are understood to include George Bush (the elder), Henry Kissinger, board members from Halliburton, Bank of America, and international members of the so-called “oiligarchy.” Put bluntly, the Bohemian Club’s roster can read like a complete list of modern day hegemony, replete with powerful, conservative white men. To this day, very few Jews and even fewer black members have been granted admission to the elite circle.

Despite the club provenance suggesting that theirs is an organization for enjoyment rather than networking, historically “lakeside talks” in the Grove have allegedly laid a covert groundwork for successful presidential campaigns (such as the case with Richard Nixon in 1967), the Manhattan Project, and future international policy, to name a few.

Recently the group has attracted public ire for logging Bohemian Grove’s virginal redwoods after attaining a nonindustrial timber management plan, which allows for the production of timber without the usual government oversight associated with industrial forestry.

Given that members inhabit the upper echelons of moneyed society throughout the world, many in the general public have criticized their actions for, in addition to these being among the rarest trees on the planet, it is unlikely that Bohemian Club members are logging their sacred woods to stave off financial hardships.

Regardless of political leanings, visitors will have a difficult time gaining entry to the Club’s headquarters or the Grove itself… Unless cozying-up to an old family friend is an option, in which case please report back with details!

Know Before You Go

Don't expect to find parking, this is in a very busy area.

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