Welcome to October’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located in the Summer Street School building while renovations are being made before we move to our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street. The 250 Club achieved its goal making it possible to buy the property and we did just that on August 29th! Thanks go out to all who helped us achieve this milestone. It took a community along with friends and alumni to make this dream a reality. We encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Please join us for a benefit Veteran’s Day concert on November 10th at 7:00 p.m. at the North Congregational Church. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
Old Pine Golf Club
Gone are the folks that swung golf clubs at the Old Pine Golf Club but inquiries about the location of this early course still remain and often these inquiries refer to it as the “old golf links”. In 1899, the land set aside for the golf course was the higher pasture lands of Underclyffe, the mansion built by Franklin and Frances Fairbanks in 1872. The approximately twenty acres for this course were in the area now known as Overclyffe. Franklin and his wife Frances both died in 1895, leaving their daughter Ellen and her husband Frank Brooks in the mansion. It was Frank Brooks who set aside this piece of the property and hired Alex Findlay of Boston to lay out the course.
Alex was considered to be the champion golfer at that time. He laid out a course of nine holes ranging from 100 to 260 feet apart. The Caledonian reported in 1900 that the original seven links that totaled 1500 yards and been increased to nine links, totaling 2400 yards. Finlay was pleased with the course as it combined hazards and long drives up and down the hillsides. The course gave the player a commanding view of the town as well. As one picture of the course showed, it was kept trim by sheep grazing there. I wonder how many were hit during the life of the course!
The name Old Pine Golf Club referred to the old pine that stood for years at the top of the land. This pine towered 125 feet high and looked out over the area alive and well until 1902 when it was struck by lightning. It remained standing until a winter storm in January of 1916. This was a landmark for over a hundred years and was the subject for a poem written by Wendell Phillips Stafford entitled The Old Pine.
In 1902 a clubhouse was built. Its footprint of 16 by 30 – feet was topped by a pagoda – like roof and an 8 – foot wide veranda with a rustic railing. Locker rooms were available for both men and women and a ping pong table was added for indoor recreation. A tennis court was constructed adjoining the clubhouse on the southwest corner of the property. Annual tournaments were held sometimes for the championship of Vermont or New England.
In November of 1922, news broke of the financial straits of the Frank Brooks family. They had to give up their mansion, Underclyffe and they moved to Massachusetts. The property was owned by Freeman and Frank Walker of Montpelier and Charlie and Warren Peck in 1929. At this time, a plan was announced that involved three sections of the property; the Underclyffe estate, the park in front of the estate which was bounded by Cliff and Spring Streets and the Old Pine Golf Links. The auction for the sale of these lots was set for July 13th at 1:30p.m. at the Golf Links section. The development of this area would continue for several years and the mansion would come down in 1938.
The year 1923 began a new chapter in the history of golf in St. Johnsbury, as the St. Johnsbury Country Club came into being. The Morrill farm, consisting of many acres was purchased at the north edge of St. Johnsbury on the road to Lyndonville. Willie Park, Jr. designed the nine-hole course. Major improvements were made in 1927 to the clubhouse, renovating it from a farmhouse to a modern clubhouse. Originally the farmhouse had been located further east but when the railroad had built through the property in the 1850’s the farmhouse had been moved to its present location making the project very appealing. This project was headed up successfully by Doctor Frank Farmer. 1992 saw the addition of nine more holes. Golf has been alive and well for over a century in this town!