History of Illini Country Club

 

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Illini Country Club Mission Statement

Illini Country Club was founded in 1906 as a full service, family oriented private club. The goal of the Board of Directors and management is to provide convenient, high quality facilities, services and amenities to meet the members' recreational and social needs throughout time.
 

The History of Illini Country Club

When the Illini Country Club was started in 1906, golf was already well established in Springfield. Illini Country ClubAlmost a decade earlier, students returning from eastern colleges had brought the game back with them and set up a four-hole course inside the racetrack at the State Fairgrounds. Out of these informal though spirited activities, the Springfield Golf Club was born. A plot of fifty acres was leased on the west edge of town, a modest clubhouse was built, and a nine-hole course laid out on the rolling terrain of what is now Pasfield Park. There was one disadvantage--those who did not have a horse and buggy found it a difficult place to reach. They had to take the Governor Street trolley to the end of the line, walk a full half-mile south on Feldkamp Street past abandoned Kraus’ Park (last of the local German beer gardens), and then proceed another lengthy stretch west to the club entrance. Before the club was abandoned, the Lawrence Avenue line had been extended to Feldkamp Street.

After half a dozen years, these activities began to outgrow the restricted facilities of the Springfield Golf Club and late in 1905 a group of members, with P. Barton Warren as Chairman, met to “discuss the feasibility of organizing a new golf club and constructing a clubhouse and golf course on grounds to be owned by the club.” After much discussion it was decided to make the effort. Before proceeding with the organization, however, it was necessary to be assured of two prerequisites.

The first was to secure an option for the purchase of a suitable tract of land. The site chosen was part of a large farm operated in connection with the original Leland Hotel. The hotel and farm were the properties of Noble B. Wiggins and were managed by him and his two sons, Horace and Lewis. The farm was a large tract bounded on the north by South Grand Avenue, on the east by MacArthur Boulevard, on the south by Cherry Road, and on the west by Chatham Road. Mr. Wiggins, when approached, readily gave an option to purchase this selected tract of 138 acres, and so the first problem was solved.

The second prerequisite was transportation. At that time not more than half a dozen automobiles existed in Springfield. The only effective means of transportation was by electric streetcar, but the line nearest the site of the proposed clubhouse was more than a mile and a half away. Mr. Warren, an attorney, was counsel for the utilities company that owned and operated the streetcar system. He prevailed upon that company to construct a line over the mile and a half stretch to the southeast corner of the property. “The car line was operated until automobiles came into general use,” Mr. Henry Abels said, “and then was discontinued. I am sure the line was always a losing venture for the company, but without it the Club could not have been established.”

On May 22, 1906, a charter was granted to the Illini Country Club (pronounced IL-LIE-NIGH), with authority to issue 250 shares of capital stock with a par value of $100.00 each. At the organizational meeting the following officers were elected: P.B.Warren, President; W.L. Desnoyers and Henry Abels, Vice Presidents; and George E. Keys, Secretary-Treasurer. The nine Directors chosen were Henry Abels, Alfred Booth, W.L. Desnoyers, Ridgely Hudson, George E. Keys, John C. Lanphier, Jr., John H. Lloyd, Stephen L. Littler, and P.B. Warren. The book of By-laws printed in 1906 gives a list of 249 active members of whom 195 were charter members; 10 associate members; 11 non-resident members; and one honorary member, the Governor of Illinois.

In the meanwhile, work on the construction of the clubhouse and golf course was proceeding. The house still serves, although it has been much altered, enlarged, repaired, and many times redecorated. The course, which was laid out by Tom Bendelow, remained practically unchanged for sixteen years, when the land west of Chatham Road was leased and nine new holes were added.

May 1963

Courtesy of :
Mr. George W. Bunn
Mr. Henry Abels
Mr. Robert E. Miller, Jr.