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The Elkridge Club

A Brief History by Stewart McLean

The Elkridge Fox Hunting Club was founded in 1878 with about 40 members. Fox hunting had been largely suspended during the Civil War, and though there were now many hunters in the field, it was done locally and informally. These men wished to form a club for better organization.

The first kennels were in Elkridge, Howard County, Maryland, known then as Elkridge Landing, where Route 1 crosses the Patapsco River. The club had no headquarters, and Board meetings were held at the Baltimore Athletic Club or at the Board members’ homes or offices. In May of 1881 the kennels were moved to a portion of the grounds of the Baltimore Gun Club in Pimlico. Members stabled their own horses and met the hounds at the hunt sites.

George S. Brown was the first president of Elkridge, and many of the early Board meetings were held at Mondawmin, his estate at what is now Liberty Heights Avenue and Gwynn Oak Parkway. In January 1883 Elkridge moved into its first clubhouse, a cottage on Mr. Brown's property. Elkridge now had a restaurant, bar and tennis courts.

In July 1888 Elkridge leased 54 acres at $800 per year on Charles Street Avenue from the estate of Governor Augustus Bradford, and moved into the new clubhouse which was to be its permanent home. This acreage extended north from the entrance gate to the line between the present 5th and 6th holes. Governor Bradford had purchased 125 acres at the site for $12,000 in 1854, and had built a large house on the hill just west of the first green. This house was burned by Confederate troops on July 11, 1864, but the tenant house, which was to be the Elkridge clubhouse, was unharmed. Elkridge was to eventually own most of the original Bradford land.

In addition to having room for stables, kennels, and fox pens, Elkridge now was able to support tennis, baseball and trap shooting. Splendid horse shows were held. Queen Victoria and her entourage would have fit nicely.

In May 1892 Elkridge bought 38.8 acres of the leased land for $24,752, raising the money with a bond issue bought mostly by members. The land north of the present parking lot, encompassing the present 5th and 14th holes, was no longer under the Elkridge aegis.

In 1894 a group of Baltimore gentlemen formed the Baltimore Golf Club and leased 29 acres just to the south of Elkridge. Here they built the first golf course in Maryland, nine holes between Elkridge and Gittings Avenue extended. The next year Elkridge built its own course of about 2,000 yards, fitting the nine holes in with the baseball fields, horse schooling grounds and outbuildings.

These two courses operated side by side for four years with many common members, and were often played as 18 holes. But after the 1898 season Baltimore Golf Club and Elkridge decided to combine. Certain Elkridge members acquired the 29 acres for $28,903 and leased it to Elkridge, which accepted as members all willing Baltimore Golf Clubbers. A new, much improved nine-hole course was opened in May 1900 over the land previously used for the two courses. Designed by Thomas Bendelow of New York, and reaching about 2,800 yards, this new nine was very fine for its day.

To raise money for the purchase, several Elkridge members, led by president Edward A. Jackson, formed the Multavideo Land Company which sold bonds in the amount of $31,000 and leased the land to Elkridge at a rent equal to the real estate taxes plus the interest on the bonds.

For the next 20 years the hunters and the golfers lived side by side. The golf course was closed for the annual horse shows, and the hunters tried to stay out of the way of the golfers. The baseball and tennis players too found room for their sports, and all this on about 67 acres.

Jimmy Roche was hired as golf professional in 1903, and by the time he retired from the job in 1961, he had made himself an Elkridge legend.

During World War I the horses were moved to the Harford Hunt. In the spring of 1919 the hunters came back to Elkridge, but it was evident that the Charles Street location was too urban for fox hunting, and the hunters formed a new organization, the Elkridge Hounds, and moved to a farm at Pot Springs and Dulaney Valley Roads. The two organizations were entirely separate and fox hunting had left Elkridge forever.

By April of 1923 the membership had reached 400. A bigger golf course was needed. Elkridge leased 18.28 acres to the north and 23.01 acres to the south from the Douglas Gordon estate, at an annual ground rent of $5,400, which was redeemed in April 1946 for $90,000. The 100-acre Elkridge property now extended from Lake Avenue north to the railroad line, which ran along the path between the present 5th and 6th holes.

Golf expert Seth Raynor, with the help of Jimmy Roche, designed and built the 18-hole golf course, which opened on May 24, 1925. It was financed by the sale of stock to the members in the amount of $50,400. There have been a number of changes to the course over the years, and only the present first hole dates back to 1900. But we are still playing the basic 1925 course.

It is hard to comprehend the Great Depression of the 1930's. In 1932 the Dow Jones stock average hit 40, and there were 10,000,000 Americans out of work. Elkridge membership dropped from 400 to 284 by 1936, though annual dues were reduced from $150 to $125, and the initiation fee from $200 to $100. World War II caused further difficulties, as help was hard to find and Jimmy Roche ran the entire golf operation with fewer than half a dozen men and a budget as low as $8,000. But through it all, Elkridge maintained spirit.

In 1932 a corporate reorganization was made. The Elkridge Club, Incorporated was created, to be owned by the old entity, The Elkridge Fox Hunting Club of Baltimore County, which would now be a holding company for the new club. Money was borrowed, the Multavideo bonds were paid off, and the Elkridge Club took title of the old Baltimore Golf Club land. Over the succeeding years the Fox Hunting Club would issue stock to the Elkridge Club as bonds were retired, and today The Elkridge Club owns 99% of the Elkridge Fox Hunting Club stock.

With the war over, membership increased until it reached the 450 limit in 1956. Many improvements were made to the clubhouse to complement those of earlier years. In 1949 the Ballroom was enlarged and the Hunt Room built. In 1955 came the big expansion. The pool was built for $70,000, $22,340 was spent on a sprinkling system for the golf course, and the pro shop, which until this time was in the clubhouse, was given its new home beside the first green, at a cost of $28,500. Other improvements were made, and all of it was financed by a $300 assessment of each member and a raise in the initiation fee from $250 to $550.

In the next 40 years the clubhouse was further enlarged and enhanced. In 1960 the Greek Restaurant (now called the Men's Grill) was extended to the north. A new room was built over the Dining Room in 1983, and most of the club was air conditioned. In 1989 half of the Men's Locker Room was remodeled and a grand new stairway was provided from the southwest corner of the Ballroom to the west porches. Each member was now assessed $3,600 to be paid over a two-year period, dues were raised from $1,650 to $2,000 and the initiation fee was increased from $7,500 to $11,000. An entirely new kitchen was constructed and the new Grill, looking over the golf course, was put in place and opened in May 1990. In 1993 a new Ladies’ Locker Room was added to the north end of the Men's Locker Room.

The grounds and outbuildings also received attention. In 1987 the new golf maintenance building was erected, and this was modified and improved in 1993. The parking lot was rebuilt, the tennis shed erected, and a lot of money was spent on the swimming pool. Many other improvements were made and to finance them the dues were raised to $2,600 and the initiation fee to $15,000 in 1991. In 1994 a new assessment of $4,200 was made on the membership.

More land was added to the property in March 1974 when 8.872 acres to the north were leased from Edward W. Brown at an annual rental of $5,200. Edmund B. Ault redesigned the golf course, adding the present 6th and 7th holes from the Brown land, and providing the splendid practice area Elkridge now boasts. The remodeled course opened in spring of 1978, by which time the lease had been redeemed by the club for $65,000.

On the night of February 4, 1993 a fire started in the second floor hall outside the club offices. It was under control in two hours, but the damage to the front part of the building was extensive. However, lunch was served that day in the Grill and the club never closed. By the end of the summer the damage of over half a million dollars was mostly repaired and Elkridge had a sparkling new finish, better than ever and with new offices on the third floor which had been mostly storage before.

In the winter of 1994-95 the Golf Shop was remodeled and an addition was made to hold the 600 golf bags. The next winter the golf course was modernized with new cart paths, bunkers and tees.

In the ensuing 12 years several changes and anniversaries occurred. In 1998 John A. Luetkemeyer, Jr., succeeded Charles W. Cole, Jr. as president, and a number of new projects were completed during his stewardship. Over the winter of 2001-02 the pool house, the same one that was built in 1955, was demolished and a modern structure was erected, containing vastly improved facilities and a Fitness Center, complete with many fine exercise machines and manned daily since. At the same time the pool was rebuilt, the grounds of the pool were improved with landscaping and playground equipment for the children. In May 2004, Jay M. Wilson was elected the club’s seventeenth president.

The next major work was the rebuilding of the golf course. In the 78 years since 1925, when Elkridge first had an 18-hole course designed by well-known golf architect Seth Raynor, nature and human idiosyncrasies had made many changes. The trees had grown much larger and the traps and greens had been done over time and time again. The nature of the course had changed and a group of the golfing members decided it was time to go back to the original as closely as possible. Research on the Seth Raynor method was done, and other of his courses which had been renovated were studied. The Club retained Brian Silva for the project. A nationally recognized golf course architect, Mr. Silva had extensive experience in restoring Raynor courses. Mr. Silva prepared a concept plan that was presented to the membership in several membership meetings to give all members the opportunity to provide input into the coming work. Generous (and anonymous) members provided more than $2,000,000 for the project, which was completed in two phases over the winters of 2003-2004 and 2007-2008.

A 307-page book, The Elkridge Club, A Fragmentary Record of Events, 1878–2002, was published by the Club in the summer of 2003.

A great extravaganza was held at Elkridge on Saturday, September 20, 2003, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the club. Games of golf and tennis were held in the afternoon and a dinner-dance attended by over 500 members and guests was held that night. Hunters from the Elkridge-Harford Hunt brought dogs and horses to cavort in the field in front of the club. It was a grand occasion.

In the early months of 2004, Andy’s Bar, the last retreat of the men, was closed for remodeling. The structure was extended 15 feet to the north, with a fireplace on the north end, so that there is more room and a better atmosphere for dining and card playing. Here also, some of the cost of the work was supported by member contributions.

On February 12, 2009, the Clubhouse suffered another fire that began on the second floor. The Presidents Room, Living Room, Board Room, Archive Room, and third-floor offices all suffered significant damage. The affected areas were able to be closed off, so that other areas of the Clubhouse could resume normal operation just two days later. Over the next several months, extensive renovations were made to repair and upgrade the facilities, during which time the Clubhouse remained open. With the cocktail areas being out of commission, Andy’s Bar was opened to all members and guests after 6:00 p.m.

On November 20, the Club held a Grand Reopening Party to showcase the renovated rooms. The Living Room and Trophy Room donned new furnishings; the Presidents Room a new gas fireplace. The Board and Paddock Rooms were enlarged to accommodate private parties; the Drawing Room, Bradford Room (formerly the “Maryland Room”), and Ladies Room received complete makeovers as well. Restoring the third floor was the final piece of the overall fire renovation that cost nearly two-million dollars.

One athletic event highlights the Elkridge sporting year. The Elkridge/Green Spring Member–Guest Golf Tournament, played annually since 1951, is one of the premier events of its kind in the area.

One hundred thirty-three years old, 123 years in the same location, the Elkridge Club has had nearly 2,900 members. The past represents a tradition that cannot be quickly acquired, and the future, while unknown, is faced by a club in sound physical and financial circumstances.