A Brief History of the
Shady Rest Golf and Country Club
In the mid 1700’s, the Ephraim Tucker Farmhouse was built on a thirty-one acre plot of rural landscape just outside the town of Westfield, New Jersey. In the early 1800s, John Locey purchased this property that would later become the George B. Osborn Tavern. In the late 1890s, the property was sold to the Westfield Golf Club and was converted into a 9- hole golf course with the main farmhouse serving as the clubhouse.
During this time, a close-knit community of black residents lived on both sides of the golf course. They created paths across the Westfield Golf Course to visit friends and relatives living in the area. Although they lived around a golf club, blacks were not allowed membership at the white country clubs during that era of segregation.
"The First African American Country Club"
After some years, the Westfield Golf Club wanted to expand its golf course and collaborated with the Cranford Golf Club to create the Echo Lake Country Club in 1921. The Westfield Golf Club did not want to infringe upon the legal rights of the black homeowners in order to expand.
On September 21, 1921, a group of black investors known as the Progressive Realty Company, Inc. purchased the former Westfield Country Club and created the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club. This club was established to provide recreation and entertainment for all ages. Activities included golf, tennis, horseback riding, and skeet shooting.
The dining room hosted famous people such as W.E.B. DuBois, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and many others.
The significance of this purchase was that it was black owned and the first African American country club in the United States.
Preservation New Jersey Sites
The Shady Rest was placed on the list of endangered historic landmarks in 2011 by Historian, Ms. Ethel Washington. http://pnj10most.org/
Preserve our American History
The Shady Rest Golf & Country Club is the oldest African-American golf clubhouse in the United States of America. The building was once a dwelling of a Revolutionary War hero. In the twentieth century it was the home for over 30 years to John Matthew Shippen, Jr. the very first American-born golf professional.
The Shady Rest has added significance as the home course of the first American golf professional to play in the U.S. Open, John Matthew Shippen, Jr. (1879-1968). The clubhouse, originally the Ephraim Tucker Farmhouse built in the 1700's, became the George Osborne Tavern in 1882. In 1900 the Westfield Golf Club converted the farmland into a nine-hole golf course and the farmhouse into a clubhouse. After the Westfield Golf Club merged with a club in Cranford to form the Echo Lake Country Club in 1921, a group of prominent black investors known as the Progressive Realty Company purchased the property and organized Shady Rest Golf and Country Club.
The private club became a center for African American society at the time. Club members hosted events that brought to Scotch Plains such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Count Basie lead their bands there; tennis great Althea Gibson played tennis; African-American golf pros Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Joe Louis teed off there.
The Shady Rest offered all of the amenities. In addition to golf, members could enjoy tennis, horseback riding, skeet shooting, attended locker rooms and, a clubhouse and dining room. African-Americans traveled from the New England area, New York, Pennsylvania and as far south as North and South Carolina to enjoy what the Shady Rest had to offer.
Scotch Plains Township acquired the Shady Rest property through a tax lien foreclosure in 1938 and maintained it until 1964 when it took over operations. The Township renamed it Scotch Hills Country Club and made the Club open to the public. The History and significance of the course and clubhouse has not always been promoted as a place of national historic interest.
The Future for the Shady Rest Clubhouse
In 1964, the township of Scotch Plains acquired the Shady Rest Golf Course and Country Club and renamed the grounds the Scotch Hills Golf Club. Despite the renaming of the Club, the main part of the old Shady Rest Clubhouse still remains and with it, the memory of the first African American owned and operated golf and country club in the United States. The Preserve the Shady Rest Committee foresees a bright future for the restoration of the
Shady Rest. Future endeavors include:
Gain landmark status for the Shady Rest Golf Course and Country Club
Restoration of the Clubhouse for a community Multi-Purpose Center
Establish a Community Learning Center
Raise awareness of John Matthew Shippen, Jr's legacy and establish a Shady Rest Golf and Country Club/John M. Shippen, Jr. Museum
Collect memorabilia, pictures and stories of the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club
Preserve the Shady Rest Committee is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization