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"


Shady Rest Golf and Country Club Logo c.1921
The Original Logo
Created in 1921
After some years, the Westfield Golf Club attempted 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. In Barbara J. Kukla's book, "Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-1950,"Shady Rest is described by one musician as the place "where all the rich black folks used to go, “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.
Musicians at Shady Rest
In Barbara J. Kukla's book,
"Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-1950,"
Shady Rest is described by one musician as
the place "where all the rich black folks used to go,"
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.

Barons of Rhythm at the Shady Rest Country Club, circa 1940
Band leader Conrad Butler and Ike Quebec, front right, with the Barons of Rhythm at the Shady Rest Country Club, circa 1940. Quebec is joined on the front line by Jimmy Stanford, Bobby Jarrett, and T.O. Swaingin

Contributor: Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50 By Barbara J. Kukla


Preserve our American History

The Shady Rest Golf & Country Club is the oldest African-American golf clubhouse in the United States of America. From its first opening, William Willis Sr. was able to create an aura that attracted African Americans to call the Shady Rest their home. In the mid 1920s, the building of the Shady Rest hid a Roaring 20s speakeasy in the basement due to the Prohibition Era. The third floor of the Shady Rest was home to the very first American-born golf professional, John Shippen Jr. The Shady Rest was home to many prominent African Americans in the community and others who admired its ability to serve people in their time of need. WEB Dubois, Althea Gibson and many African American musicians frequently visited the Shady Rest, solidifying its place in history as “A Place For Us” to Black Americans.

Dr. Brock, wife and friends on the tennis courts at Shady Rest Country Club
Dr. H.F. Brock (Left), Member of Shady Rest
Board of Directors with the Wright Family.
C. 1930’s
The Shady Rest became a center for African American society at the time. Musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday all filled the building with their musical talent. Musicians Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, Lionel Hampton all played with other great musicians like Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong.

Shady Rest Dining Room
A picture postcard of the club dining room
looking out to the Shady Rest Golf Course and
veranda. Miss Lillian's famous fried chicken and
potato salad was served in the club dining room.
C.1920’s
The Shady Rest offered many amenities. In addition to golf, members could enjoy tennis, horseback riding, skeet shooting, attended locker rooms, and a 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. Membership was selective and consisted of elitist blacks hailing throughout the metropolitan area including Harlem, Brooklyn, Newark, Montclair, Summit, the Oranges, etc. Among the members was African American golf pros Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Joe Louis. Tennis superstar Althea Gibson who was known as the first African American woman to win Wimbledon, played tennis and golf at the Shady Rest. Annual dues were set at $25.00 for individuals residing within 50-mile radius of Westfield and those beyond paying $10.00. Social members (no golfing privileges) paid $15.00. a membership committee conducted background checks on prospective members. If they did not “make the grad socially”, membership was denied.

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. In 2021, the golf course was renamed to Shady Rest Country Club. The Shady Rest clubhouse and golf course was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in July 2022.

The Future for the Shady Rest Clubhouse

The Preserve the Shady Rest Committee foresees a bright future for the restoration of the Shady Rest. Future endeavors include:
  • Raise awareness of the Shady Rest and John Shippen Jr.'s legacy as an important part of both black and American history.
  • Development of the Shady Rest Museum & Learning Center.
  • Collect memorabilia, pictures, and stories of the Shady Rest Country Club.
  • Restoration of Shady Rest speakeasy and John Shippen Jr.’s bedroom.
  • Raise awareness of the Shady Rest and John Shippen Jr.'s legacy.
  • General restoration of the Shady Rest clubhouse.




Preserve the Shady Rest Committee is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization