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History of Edgewood Valley

In 1910, a group of local residents proposed establishing a new, more forward-thinking private club to provide a home away from home with a serene place to play golf. In April of 1910, a new club was founded with 70 members paying a $25 initiation fee and annual dues of the same amount.

Club organizers took a lease that spring on 45 acres north of Ogden Avenue and west of Brainard Avenue in LaGrange. The property was the site of an abandoned residential development, and teams of horses were soon grading the site, contouring the land to create a golf course. Sidewalks from the abandoned development were a hazard on a number of the holes on the new course. The property butted up against the old Nazareth Academy at Brainard and Ogden Avenues, and the St. Joseph’s Institute for Boys was just west of the golf course.

Because of the proximity to Salt Creek, the incorporators originally proposed to call the new club the Edgebrook Golf Club of LaGrange. But a quick bit of checking revealed that there already was an Edgebrook Golf Club in Cook County. Accordingly, the members voted to call the new club the Edgewood Golf Club of LaGrange. The incorporation papers, filed on April 27, 1910, listed Dr. F.M. Richardson as the club’s first president; John A. Dillon, vice president; W.D. Ferguson, secretary; and Louis H. Schroeder, treasurer. The last item of organizational business involved the erection of a clubhouse. A local resident in the area of Ogden Avenue manufactured roller skates – another popular recreational activity at the time – in his barn. When he elected to get out of the business in 1910, he sold the barn to the Edgewood Golf Club, which moved it across the road to serve as the first clubhouse adjacent to the golf course. With that detail attended to, play on the new 9-hole course began in the late spring of 1910.
A member tees off during a tournament in front of the clubhouse at the old course in September 1925.

A New Nine

With the signing of the Armistice to end the war in November 1918, Edgewood Golf Club took a major step to expand influence in the LaGrange community. The club opened membership to increase the number of members to 150, and it took a lease on an additional 40 acres adjoining the club’s property to the north. In the spring of 1919, crews began preparing the new land for the addition of another nine holes. That first spring and summer, construction was completed on six additional holes, and members could complete 18 holes by playing three holes twice on what was to become the back nine.

In 1920, the club elected to exercise the option on the entire 83 acres that made up the golf course. At the same time, Edgewood Golf Club completed the last three holes on the back nine and increased the membership to 250. At 5,900 yards and par 70, Chicago’s newest 18-hole golf course quickly and sold memberships to the club.

Members of the club were justifiably proud when club member Dewey Weber shot a 1.52 for 36 holes to win the Chicago District Golf Association’s individual championship. Weber defeated two-time Western Open champion Chick Evans by four strokes. Gus Novotny, another well-known Edgewood golfer, shot a 62 in the early 1920s for the all-time record on the original Edgewood course.

Members and residents of the LaGrange community knew what a jewel the Edgewood course had become. In 1924, the LaGrange Citizen noted that “there is probably no other golf club of the Chicago district that has as many high-class golfers as Edgewood. Not only among the real stars, but among the Class-A golfers, you will find Edgewood right at the top of the list.”

The Citizen went on to note that “Edgewood has always been a club whose motto was ‘golf for golfers.’ Edgewood members have the best golf for the smallest outlay of any club in Chicago. The good fellowship and friendly spirit of all members is backed by a board of directors who are deeply interested in working for a better Edgewood.”

Few members realized at the time that the LaGrange Citizen article lauding Edgewood Golf Club was written in 1924, that the club’s days on Ogden Avenue were numbered. By that time, the land that the golf course sat on was worth far more for residential development than for recreation.
The dining room of the original clubhouse on Ogden Avenue.


A $300,000 Offer

In the 1920s, Chicago was one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. The city’s population in 1920 was 2.7 million, which had grown from just under 2.2 million in 1910. Population growth would be even sharper during the 1920s. Chicago’s population would top 3.5 million in 1930, a near 25 percent increase from the population in 1920.

Thousands of homes and dozens of residential real estate developments sprouted up beyond the city limits. Bedroom communities such as LaGrange, Oak Park, and Winnetka all became increasingly popular during the 1920s because they offered land for affordable homes, and they were close to the Loop and downtown via the ubiquitous network of rail lines radiating out from downtown train stations. LaGrange boasted that commuters were only 28 minutes away from Union Station via the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

By the mid-1920s, Edgewood Golf Club’s 83 acres on Ogden Avenue was attracting developers’ attention as residential real estate. Late in 1924, H.O. Stone & Company offered the club $200,000 for the land - $50,000 in cash and $150,000 in five equal payments. At the same time, William E. Harmon Company offered the club $500,000 for the land. The club elected to accept the Harmon offer, who wanted possession of the land on October 1, 1925.

Key to selling the original club to Harmon was purchasing land in the area for a new club and course. In the fall of 1924, Edgewood Golf Club took an option on the 184-acre Willis Ward farm south and west of LaGrange along Willow Springs Road. Ward, a pioneer of the area, had been born on the farm in 1852, the son of a farmer and cattle horse dealer from New York. He was 73 when he sold the property to Edgewood Golf Club.

The 177 acres of the Ward farm stretched along Willow Springs Road from 71st to 79th Streets and was more heavily wooded on the south end of the property, where the first dozen or so holes of the new golf course would be located. The northern end of the property was more open and would become the location of the closing holes and practice area.

When the members had first given the board authorixation to enter into an agreement to sell the old course and buy the land for a new course in September 1924, they anticipated construction starting in the spring of 1925. But Edgewood was able to hire a fully organized crew who was just finishing the Elmhurst Golf Club, so construction was underway in October 1924. At the same time, the club signed a contract with William Diddel, a noted Indianapolis golf course architect, to design the new course, and with Howard Van Doren Shaw, the Chicago architect who designed the new clubhouse.

Work on the new course proceeded throughout the summer and fall of 1925, while surveyors from the Harmon Company dodged golf balls as they laid out lots and streets for the new Edgewood Park development.
This aerial picture shows the proximity of Edgewood Park to the built up LaGrange community.

Edgewood Golf Club becomes Edgewood Valley

The picturesque setting of the new course on Willow Springs Road had members and Chicago-area golfers excited as construction proceeded during 1925. The Chicago Golfer noted that summer that the new course “is to be near Western Springs, a little farther from town to be sure but so pretty and sporty that the few extra minutes to reach it will never be noticed. Part of the land is thickly wooded and there are enough natural hazards to make the planning of the course quite delightful, we should think.”

What had impressed the editors of Chicago’s premier golf magazine led the club to change its name in the summer of 1925. In a May 16, 1925 letter to members, the board proposed “that the name of the club be changed from Edgewood Golf Club of LaGrange to Edgewood Valley Country Club, the name retaining as it does the present name of Edgewood and adding ‘Valley,” which the new course overlooks.”

The new Edgewood Valley Country Club opened for play on May 1, 1926. The club unveiled the new clubhouse that evening with a formal dinner and dance, and 379 members and guests filled every inch of space in the new building, designed with open wooden joists in an English Inn style.

The pro shop, shown here in the 1930s, was moved from the old course on Ogden Avenue in 1926 - making it the only structure used at both locations.