When the Cannon clubhouse reopened in November of last year, it was goddamn beautiful. Beer volcanoes erupted in explosive unison, and the gods of debauchery let out a orgiastic moan that rippled from the heavens like a category 5 hurricane. In a party that almost certainly violated fire code, the Cannon Dial Elm graduate board unveiled a clubhouse with technology rivaling that of the most lukewarm nightclubs and so many taprooms that you’re too drunk to count them by the end of the night. But in so doing, part of Cannon’s magic died; the club that allegedly housed the hardest and craziest parties in Princeton, an Oreo mountain, and beer tsunamis was, in its new incarnation, not drastically different from any other club on the Street.
Though many other clubs along Prospect have shut their doors over the years (Gateway, Court, and Key & Seal—just to name a few) none of them are as well known as Cannon. I even spoke with someone who thought Campus Club, which folded only 7 years ago, was named as such because it was always university-owned. Yet despite being closed for nearly 40 years, tales of parties at “the Gun” have been passed down through the ages like an incredibly fucked-up Princetonian Iliad. The club does have a sort of majesty about it; it has a cannon in its front yard, and stories of the club’s stairwell motorcycle rides are only rivaled by one legendary Quad alumnus who was PMC’d twice in one night.
Cannon’s legend began in 1973, when it closed. In the preceding years, a small portion of the club’s membership gave the club a bad name when they took part in a series of violent, racist, and misogynistic incidents. By the end of the year, Cannon had only 30 members and a financial crisis mirroring that of Greece. Shortly thereafter, it was sold to the University, unceremoniously christened Notestein Hall and housed the Office of Population Research and the writing program.
Meanwhile, Cannon’s lack of a home was not boding well for the emotional stability of its alumni. One Reunions, a number of alumni stormed the building and took a graduate student working there hostage. And so, in 1985, the Cannon graduate board rekindled its extinguished flames and started anew, desperately hoping to reclaim its clubhouse. The University, however, had other plans, and stated that it was “very, very unlikely, verging on impossible” that Notestein Hall would ever reopen as Cannon Club. But much like Rick Ross, Drake, and maybe even French Montana, Cannon Graduate Board President Warren Crane ’62 stayed scheming. Crane realized that in order for Cannon’s offers to be taken seriously by the University, it would need to be able to offer a replacement space for the offices located in Notestein. And so the late Mr. Crane charged into the tenth crusade.
In late 1989, the graduate boards of Dial Lodge and Cannon Club merged to form Dial & Cannon Club (D&C). Though Cannon had no undergraduate members, the merger was touted as keeping an otherwise financially insolvent Dial afloat. It also gave Cannon alumni a club to visit at Reunions and didn’t change the character of Dial’s membership – especially because Dial’s membership also raged harder than 3/4 of Audioslave. Though Dial was on the upswing and would have probably weathered the instability, the merger with Cannon supplied immediate financial support. That said, Crane acquired a remarkable amount of power as co-president, and continued his march on the north side of Prospect Avenue. Less than a year later, the D&C conglomerate took advantage of another financially unstable club: Elm. The club, which had a disproportionately small sign-in class, accepted a “merger” (read: takeover) to become Dial Elm Cannon Club (DEC). In every way, this was not a good move for Elm, largely because D&C was full of wild partiers and Elm was known for being quiet and studious; the two clubs’ members were not compatible at all. Though the club operated out of the Elm clubhouse, every distinctive quality of Elm was about to be eviscerated.
That happened. The poorly conceived DEC was a bigger shitshow than “2 Girls, 1 Cup.” Streetlights were ripped out of the ground, the club was set on fire, holes were made in every wall, and bonfires in the backyard were a regular occurrence. The general rowdiness would not have been nearly as big of a deal if the necessary repairs didn’t cause the club to lose money. Things weren’t working out for Cannon; the University wasn’t biting and the graduate board was effectively operating 2 unwanted clubs at a loss. At this point, the board already had its bargaining chips; so within a single year of absorbing 2 clubs, DEC shut down in 1991—promises of increased financial stability be damned. Though it reopened the next year after students promised to be less rowdy and actually pay their dues, the unwieldy conglomerate once again suspended operations in 1998. This time, however, the University was ready to pounce. Princeton bought up the former Dial Lodge and Elm Club, which now house the Bendheim Center for Finance and the Carl A. Fields Center respectively. In 2001, the Crane and the DEC graduate board finally managed to buy back the Cannon clubhouse, but at what cost?
Though the club’s full name is still legally Dial, Elm & Cannon Club, the club refers to itself almost exclusively as Cannon. In the rare case that all three parts of the club’s name are used, it’s known as “Cannon Dial Elm,” a masturbatory reordering of the original name. The club’s apparel (just t-shirts, for now) come exclusively in Cannon’s color—kelly green—and feature “CANNON” written in large text across the chest. DEC’s website is titled “Cannon Club” and can be found at cannonclub.com. In order to emulate the historically athletic member base of Cannon, the bicker application interrogated bickerees about athletic affiliations and unironically stated “many of Cannon’s members will be athletes.” It’s incredibly obvious that the graduate board is attempting to vicariously relive their college years by resurrecting Cannon—exactly how it was in both aesthetic and character. But in the process of doing so, it sacrificed 2 operational clubs, dryly observing their clubhouses, traditions, and characters before crushing them under the weight of hundreds of varsity athletes. Despite the graduate board’s efforts, Cannon is not the legend it once was; it’s just another club and sometimes a Friday night alternative to Charter and Colonial. Cannon is dead. Long live Cannon.