| Club History || |
The Country Club of Scranton officially came into existence on October 24, 1896, when its charter was recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds, Lackawanna County. The number of directors was fixed at nine, and the first board consisted of the following men, all of them Scranton residents: J. Benjamin Dimmick, A.G. Hunt, J.W. Oakford, N.G. Robertson, W.W. Scranton, G.B. Smith, E.B. Sturges, T.H. Watkins, C.S. Weston. From the board came the club’s first slate of officers: N.G. Robertson, president; J. Benjamin Dimmick, vice president; A.G. Hunt, treasurer; and J.W. Oakford, secretary.
Scranton’s original clubhouse, 1896
Records show that in 1901 the Pennsylvania Coal Company sold ten acres on North Washington Avenue to the club for $10,000. As was the case in the sale of most other unmined coal lands, this one carried with it an important qualifier: for a period of 50 years, upon 18 months’ written notice and repayment of the purchase price, the Pennsylvania Coal Company could repossess the land in order to mine the underlying coal.
A New York City architect, L.C. Holden, was commissioned in 1896 to design the clubhouse. The cost of the structure was $5,521. In 1902 it was enlarged and additional buildings were constructed at a total cost of $18,532. Much of the first clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1907. But it was promptly rebuilt to the original plans.
Nothing is known today about the original golf course other than that it had 18 holes and was only 4,273 yards long. It is probably safe to assume that it was a rather rudimentary layout. The club also boasted four tennis courts, one squash court, and two bowling alleys. The alleys, it seems, were used only sparingly because skunks lived there in the winter and left a powerful and persistent odor that discouraged even the most avid bowlers.
Though the club had no difficulty attracting members and though it hosted annual golf and tennis tournaments that featured national figures in both sports, it did not prosper. The records for the first two decades of the century are, at best, sketchy. But there is nothing vague about the mortgage foreclosure by the Lackawanna County Trust Company in 1921. This was followed by a sheriff’s sale of a "two-story frame clubhouse building with sleeping quarters, kitchen, bowling alleys, locker rooms, squash courts, together with a caddy house and a repair shop." One Walter S. Stevens paid $354.17 for the property. Then, by quitclaim deed, the club transferred the land itself back to the Pennsylvania Coal Company.
Still, the Country Club of Scranton somehow clung to life. And in 1925 its president, George Mitchell, appointed a committee to find land outside the city limits for a golf course. Why a site in South Abington and Newton Townships was chosen is not a matter of record. However, its scenic beauty, proximity to the city, and the fact that this was not mineable land were probably the key considerations. In any event, the club acquired 278 acres for $40,000, and within months bought an adjacent 19 acres.
Once again the club turned to New York for design talent, this time tapping the great Walter Travis, winner of the U.S. Amateur in 1900, 1901, and 1903, and the British Amateur in 1904, to lay out an 18-hole course. Travis had already gained considerable renown for his two eighteens at Westchester Country Club and for the delightful course at Ekwanok Country Club, in Vermont. Among his very last projects, the rolling-to-hilly Scranton eighteen was completed in 1927, the year of his death. In 1983 it would be revised and updated by Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva, but the routing is still essentially that of Walter Travis.
A clubhouse was built here at the new location in 1929 at a cost of $183,167. The total expense of course and clubhouse was $481,659. It all seemed—in truth, it all was—a far cry from the sheriff’s sale only eight years earlier.
A postscript of some interest: in 1996, exactly one hundred years after its founding, the Country Club of Scranton would join the Golf Association of Philadelphia. By this time it would also offer its members a third nine, laid out by Michael Hurdzan in 1991.