The origin of the club dates back to 1857, when 18 gentlemen founded the Società del Tunnel. The club, inaugurated on 16th June 1857, had its premises in Palazzo Da Passano, next to Teatro Carlo Felice. The building was demolished during the works for the opening of Via Roma, and in 1872 the Club moved to Palazzo Malfante in Via Carlo Felice 9 (now Via XXV Aprile).
The name of the club probably refers to a card game common around the mid XIX Century.
Among the promoters of Società del Tunnel there were top-level names of the artistic and political world of the period: cellist Luigi Venzano, violin superstar and Paganini’s sole pupil Camillo Sivori, maestro Angelo Mariani, conductor of Teatro Carlo Felice, writer and patriot Anton Giulio Barrili, patriot Emanuele Celesia, Sir James Hudson, British diplomat and spin doctor of the Italian unification process.
At the origin of the present club, there is also the Circolo Artistico, established on 15th January 1882.
The first premises of this club, in Palazzo Antoniotto Cattaneo, Piazza della Nunziata, were inaugurated with a great party on 20th March 1882; local press of the time devoted ample coverage to the event, and Nicolò Bacigalupo, then Treasurer of the club, in 1883 celebrated it in verse with an operetta.
Together with president Domenico Celesia, the club put together great protagonists of industry and professions, in an age of huge economic expansion of the city (among others, architect Alfredo D’Andrade, businessmen Edilio Raggio, Evan Mackenzie, Cesare Gamba, François and Clément Gondrand), but also famous artists such as Giuseppe Verdi, Camillo Sivori, sculptor Giulio Monteverde and painters Niccolò Barabino and Santo Bertelli.
In 1889, the club moved to Palazzo Giorgio Spinola (also known as Palazzo Tedeschi), in Salita Santa Caterina 4. The new location was furnished with an extensive library, pianos, luxurious carpets, antique furniture, ornaments and works of art, as well as desks and accessories for the drawing school, to provide members the opportunity of becoming artists themselves.