This is the third in a series of posts by The Scrambler (Kevin Lynch) who appears to have lost the will or ability to post under his own name. Putting that trivial element aside, the Scrambler is nothing if not a top-shelf bloodhound. His sleuthing first appeared this spring (http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,55850.0.html on golf club atlas. The next installment will appear here on Friday, July 5th.
WESTWOOD HISTORY / WILLOWDALE
I had never really heard about Westwood being named Willowdale or pre-dating the 1945 construction date as generally accepted (although I hadn’t really looked to deep either). My understanding of Westwood’s history was pretty limited. I knew that in the 20th century, Westwood was generally associated with the Jewish population, although that has seemed to fade away in the past decade or so.
But armed with a new name, I dug in to learn more about the club itself and found a few articles which helped explain theformation of the current club.
First, I found a page from buffalo.wikispot.org. This page still credited Harries as the architect, but did have a brief history section which noted:
“Before it was an 18-hole course called Westwood Country Club, in 1921, the original club founded was called The Willowdale, a 9-hole course and the original clubhouse was was across Sheridan Drive. The Willowdale was created in response to existing country clubs in the Buffalo area’s prejudice against the Jewish community at the time. The original budget for The Willowdale was about $125,000 but was overspent by $250,000 and in 1929, the club was a victim of the stock market crash. During 1930’s, the club was sold to at least 2 different owners who ran the club as a casino. From the ’30s to early ’40s, the golf club wasn’t operated.
There is and never has been any by-law preventing any non-Jews from joining the club, however, up until the early 2000’s, members were required to provide documentation showing they donated money to a Jewish federation and was the only country club in the Buffalo area to require this.”
Of course, not wanting to put to much faith in an article with “Wiki” in the name, I pursued things a little more. I found an archive summary from the UB Library for a collection of records for Westwood Country Club from 1945-1995. In the synopsis, the following was noted:
The Westwood Country Club or “The Westwood” is a country club located in Williamsville, New York. The Westwood was founded in 1945 by 200 members who paid an initiation fee of two hundred dollars, The certificate of incorporation for “The Westwood” was signed by the nine “Directors” on March 14, 1945 and stated that the purpose of the club was to “organize, equip, operate and manage a Country Club for the pleasure and recreation of its members, and in connection therewith to maintain a club house, golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and any and all means of recreation which its’ Directors may consider advisable.”
While the Westwood Country Club began in the 1940s, its roots lie in two predecessor Jewish Country Clubs at the same geographic site: Willowdale Country Club and the Wilmont Town and Country Club. The Willowdale Country Club was organized in 1919 and began operation two years later in 1921 with a nine-hole golf course in a lot on Sheridan Drive near North Forest in what was then a pastoral setting in Williamsville. It was established in a wider period of country club building and boom in Buffalo during the 1920s and was also initiated in response to the difficulties Jewish applicants had in gaining entry into other established Country Clubs in Greater Buffalo.
Within a decade, Willowdale had raised enough money to build a formal mock Tudor style clubhouse that opened in 1928, and remains in use by the current Westwood Country Club (with building additions). The Wall Street Crash and subsequent Great Depression saw revenues plummet dramatically as many members relinquished memberships due to financial hardship. In an effort to save both the Willowdale and the Montefiore Club (a Jewish Men’s City Club based in Buffalo), the two combined to create the Wilmont Town and Country Club, a name formed out of a combination of their distinct entities. This action was not enough for Willowdale however, and for a few years the Country Club ceased to operate while the Montefiore Club resumed its independence.
During the early 1930s the site was opened as the Blossom Heath Country Club, with ownership based in Chicago, Illinois. After WWII, the club revived and emerged as the Westwood Country Club (WCC), working in cooperation with the Forest Road Corporation (FRC) that owns the land and leases it to the WCC for a nominal fee. In 1995, “The Westwood” celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a Presidential Ball.”
Given these excerpts, the history of Westwood was a little clearer.
Per the UB Synopsis, the site was operated as the Blossom Heath Country Club during the 30s (there is a “Blossom Heath Road” just south of Westwood, and just west of Park CC). This matches up somewhat with the Buffalo.wikispot history, which mention that “the club was sold to at least two different owners who ran the club as a casino” during the 1930s.
The current iteration of the club was formed after WWII, which explained the 1945 date I usually saw attributed to the course. I suppose the various ownership changes and cessation of golf from 1929 through 1945 may explain why the club generally refers to its 1945 inception, rather than a continuation of the original 1921 Willowdale club.
However, I still had not seen any reference to Willie Park, nor was I clear as to whether the original 9 holes were still incorporated into the current routing. I decided to turn my attention towards the designers. (NOTE: At this point, I had not seen the 1921 article from Joe. All I had was an e-mail from him indicating that he believed Westwood was formerly named Willowdale and was built by Park.)