THE COUNTRY CLUB – Fourteen charter members began the formation of the Glen Ridge Country Club, which has grown and flourished in the Borough for over 60 years. Though in its first days it was centered solely around golf, it has become a family club of varied sports and activities today. Its membership, from the original few, has grown to over 800.
It was on October 10, 1894, that the first meeting was held at the home of John W. Stewart to organize the club. The charter members present that day elected Stewart their first president and B. R. Jacobs as secretary-treasurer. No name for the club was chosen at that time. The two officers served for the first five years of the club’s existence.
The first golf play was made possible through the generosity of Henry Lindenmeyer, prominent paper manufacturer, who donated the use of his property adjoining Ridgewood Avenue, rent free, for the first few years. The golf game played in those early days would seem crude by today’s standards. Both the costumes of the players and the equipment they used were the height of fashion at the turn of the century, but would make a quaint picture should they be reintroduced today.
When D. H. Standish was elected president in 1900, he was instrumental in the erection of the first club house on Oxford Street. The club operated from this relatively small headquarters until 1911, when Henry S. Chapman became president and immediately started plans for the building of the present club house on Ridgewood Avenue. At this time, too, the organization was incorporated as the Country Club of Glen Ridge.
A further change in its structure came during the presidency of Wilson D. Lyon in 1920. On May 29 of that year, the club was dissolved from a mutual organization and incorporated as the Glen Ridge Country Club on January 2, 1921.
Now firmly established, the club continued to grow and was led by many prominent Glen Ridge men over the years. In 1940, however, the club reached a crisis in its history. The Depression conditions had placed it in a precarious financial position. On February of that year, John Clark, president at that time, called a meeting of the 245 members, who, faced with the dissolution of the club, voted to continue as a golf club. Frank E. Barrows was named chairman of a committee to study the situation and organize a campaign to preserve the club.
Under Barrows, the committee was successful and shortly after the close of World War II, in 1945, was able to resume full Country Club status. It was through his leadership also that the club went on to become the social and sports center it is today. He held the presidency from 1941 to 1957, through the years of financial stress, and beyond this time to its recovery and rejuvenation.
Golf has continued to be first and foremost among the club’s activities. The sport and the men and women participating have brought national prominence to the Glen Ridge Club and, under the Pro leadership of Jack Fox for more than 20 years, has been a vital part of the club’s history.
Winter sports became a part of the club scene for a time during the 1940’s. Skiing and tobogganing took place on the slopes of the snow-covered golf greens, while skating was performed on the flooded and frozen tennis courts. The summer season gained importance, however, for non-golfers in 1956, with the construction of a swimming pool. This addition to the club has provided a wide expansion in the membership roster as well as an increase in the numbers of families enjoying the club facilities together.
The club house itself has undergone several improvements since it was built, the most recent being a renovation of the kitchen area, where modern equipment was added to increase the possibilities for entertaining large groups.
The Glen Ridge Country Club has offered its facilities for use by Borough organizations in recent years. It has been the scene of North Side and South End Association dances, meetings of Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs on a regular basis, political gatherings, both local and state, and the first segment of the annual Graduation Night parties of the Glen Ridge High School Senior Class.
When it was first planned in 1894, the club became one of the earliest of its kind in the country. Now, in its 82nd year, with its colorful collage of activity and the size of its membership, it holds a place among clubs in other towns as a strong community tradition.
THE WOMEN’S CLUB – The Women’s Club building at the center of Glen Ridge is today the scene of many of the Borough’s social events and meetings. The club itself, however, and the ideals behind it, date back to the turn of the century. The organization as it is known today is the outgrowth of a Bible Study class which met in 1905 at the home of Mrs. Charles B. Dodd on Appleton Place, under the leadership of Mrs. John B. Webb. In February of that year, a group of 35 women present voted to organize a club and on March 9, 1905, a constitution and by-laws were presented and accepted. The name “The Woman’s Club of Glen Ridge” was adopted.
The new club met first in the Men’s Club building, as did many of the Borough’s groups at that time. Later both the Christ Church Parish House and the Congregational Church parlors offered a meeting place. The first society meeting was held in June, 1905 at the home of Mrs. H. G. Cordley, and at that meeting it was voted that the club would affiliate with the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, which it did in October of that year.
Mrs. Charles B. Dodd was named the first president, serving for one year. She was succeeded in 1906 by Mrs. Marius Belloni, who served a two year term under a change in the constitution. It was in Mrs. Belloni’s administration, too, that the first yearbook was printed. This publication has become a trademark of the club, and a firm tradition each year. A copy of the first edition was placed in the cornerstone of the new building at the time of its dedication.
In June 1909, the club became a member of the General Federation and in June, 1915, was incorporated under the new name of “The Women’s Club of Glen Ridge.”
During the presidential term of Mrs. Louis Hinrichs in 1921, the club purchased land at the corner of Ridgewood Avenue and Snowden Place as the site of its future building. Money for this purchase was raised by Mrs. Wendell Strong as Chairman of the Land Purchase Fund Committee.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Elizabeth Harris, her friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Chapman and Mr. Chapman’s generosity, the hope for a new club house became a reality. Mrs. Harris suggested that the club be built as a memorial to Mrs. Chapman who had recently died. Chapman approved her idea and acted upon it, presenting the club with a gift of $100,000. With the funds for building in hand, ground was broken for the new clubhouse in June, 1924. The architect for the building was Herbert E. Davis.
The interior of the club and its furnishings were designed by interior decorator Edgar W. Jenney. The Club members, inspired by Mr. Chapman’s gift, worked successfully to raise the money to furnish the new building. Dedication of the club house took place May 30, 1925, with Chapman unveiling a memorial tablet to his wife.
The Women’s Club during its history has had two subdivisions for younger women. The first, the club’s Junior Auxiliary, was organized February 2, 1927. Its constitution was adopted on April 4, 1927 and 166 young women formed its membership. It remained a part of the club, carrying on social service work in the community until 1944. At that time, because of a difference in opinion as to the age limit of the club, it broke away and affiliated with the Newark Junior League.
The Girl’s Club was founded in October, 1942, and was conceived for the teenage daughters of club members. The main project of the group has been from its very beginning to the present the Scholarship Bridge. This yearly social event raises money to send deserving young women to college. The senior club also gives a scholarship each year to one of the girls of the graduating class of Glen Ridge High School.
The club is governed by a Board of Trustees made up of its officers and chairmen of the various club departments. The Board also sends representation to the Borough Civic Conference Committee.
The work of the club is carried on by these departments, each of which covers an area of interest in the membership. Six departments existed at the club’s beginning. They were Bible Study, Literature, German Literature, Nature Study, Household Economics and Current Topics. Later, French, Art, Music and Garden were added. Their titles have been changed slightly over the years, but the same general areas remain, with the exception of the foreign language groups. Each department plans a series of meetings to be held during the club year. These, in addition to the monthly general meetings of the club, provide a variety of entertainment and education for the women of the Borough who are members.
In order to meet the needs of Borough women in a changing world, in recent years an evening group has been organized. Having a separate membership and its own officers, it meets once a month in the evening and offers a variety of programs and activities planned for those women in the community who work during the day.
Another recent addition to the Women’s Club family is actually a satellite club, which is provided a meeting place in the club house and is permitted to use the club for some of its activities. “The New Neighbors,” organized to fill a need for orientation to new families who have moved to Glen Ridge, has a growing, enthusiastic membership.
The Glen Ridge Chapter of the American Red Cross is permanently housed in the lower area of the club building and carries on all operations from there.
Throughout its history, the Women’s Club of Glen Ridge has helped educate and offered opportunity for growth, both to individuals and to groups who have shared its activities and benefitted from its influence.
THE GLEN RIDGE FORUM – Originally named The Battalion Forum, this organization of historical significance in the Borough was formed on September 24, 1919. Though the group organized that evening was in fact a new club, the men gathered for that first meeting were continuing a close association begun during the years of World War I just preceding that date. The Forum’s birth resulted from a chain of events set off by the threat of war and by the War which followed that threat.
The first step toward the founding of the organization which was to become the Battalion Forum came about as a result of “preparedness movements” prior to World War I. A local branch of an organization called the National Security League represented the first efforts in this regard and was formed in 1915 under the leadership of Mayor David H. Standish. This was followed by the founding of the Glen Ridge Rifle Club in the spring of 1916. Wilson D. Lyon was its first president. Both of these local groups were forerunners of participation by Borough men in the State and National Guard movements.
Though the United States was not actually in the War as yet, the news of German submarine warfare, espionage attempts and threats of sabotage made it evident that a much stronger mobilization for defence than the Rifle Club would soon be necessary. Therefore, in January, 1917, the Glen Ridge Marshalls were formed.
Wilson Lyon served as president with Clifford W. Brown serving as executive officer. The officers of the Marshalls, the executive committee and many of those who became a part of the group were experienced in some way militarily. They had served in the Mexican War or with some division in the Spanish-American War.
The new organization of Marshalls had been active only for one month when, under the Defense League of the State of New Jersey, in February, 1917, they were organized into a uniformed Home Guard Company. When the call for members was issued, men of all ages flocked to the High School gymnasium to hear the plans for expansion. Drilling was held on a regular schedule, first in the gymnasium and later outdoors on the Central School grounds. The drills were held evenings and on Sunday mornings after church. Later, the drilling was held on the grounds of the Glen Ridge Country Club on Sundays and under special arc lights on the school grounds in the evening. Headquarters were established in the second floor of the old frame building on Herman Street which once housed the Fire and Police Departments.
By the time war was declared between the United States and Germany in April, 1917, the Glen Ridge Home Guard Company was a well-disciplined and finely-trained organization. Its membership had expanded to 125 men. New officers were required and at that time, Harold M. Kennard, formerly of the 7th regiment and just back from the Mexican Border, was made a 2nd Lieutenant.
This Home Guard unit became active and made an outstanding showing in its many maneuvers and reviews in various parts of the state. As its strength grew and its roster passed 160 names, it was mustered into the New Jersey State Militia reserve on November 13, 1917. The forerunner of later Forum meetings on a social level was held in the form of a “Smoker” at the Glen Ridge Country Club to recruit even more members.
The unit then carried on activities in connection with the War on a local level. In February, 1918, they cut trees in woodlots and sawed them for fuel, during the “Gasless Sunday” and “Heatless Monday” period. They participated in all War drives. Liberty Loan, War Stamp, Red Cross and similar activities. They took care of planting and caring for large victory gardens at the corner of Bay and Ridgewood Avenues, and managed the subsequent harvesting of these plots.
In August, 1918, members of the Company, headed by Captain Boyd and Lieutenant Kennard spent a week under wartime training conditions at the Camp for the Instruction of Officers and later assumed responsibility for assignments of a military nature on a state level.
Following the Armistice and several subsequent maneuvers, the members of the Battalion, now expanded to companies A, B, and C, wanted to continue their life together in some way. The September, 1919 meeting held in the Rifle Club joined the Rifle Club members and members of the Battalion “to hold the members together and maintain the good fellowship and public spirit which had developed within the two organizations as a result of war service.” These words concluded the resolution made at the final meeting of the two organizations and, when adopted, formed the basis for the creation of the Glen Ridge Battalion Forum.
The Forum can be considered an unusual group of men. Few organizations, local in nature and born of wartime conditions, have held together during the peace which followed. The Forum has not only lasted, but has grown in membership and strength since those early days. Its change in nature from war to peacetime activities is complete. The Forum meetings have been, over the years, a mixture of programs, some serious in purpose and intent and some pure entertainment. In a complete listing of its meetings and programs published for the Forum’s Golden Anniversary in 1970, the subjects vary from political debates to an elaborate minstrel show. Borough problems have been discussed, music heard and world events reviewed. Modern and historical areas have been touched upon.
The original membership has remained active as long as they were alive or a part of the Glen Ridge scene. Only in recent years were women permitted to attend Forum meetings and until a very few years ago, they had to sit in the balcony of the Women’s Club where the meetings are held. At present, women are welcomed at all meetings, not by invitation only.
In the past few years, the nature of the Forum has changed slightly. Now, the seriousness of its meetings far outweighs its lightheartedness of the past, which was manifested in the many Forum shows. Herbert Palmer, the inspiration and talented pen behind so many of the shows has gone and, aside from the Christmas music at the December meetings, the Forum has become a place for local discussions and programs of serious nature. One of its major undertakings is running the annual Memorial Day Parade for the Borough.
Changed in its outlook and activities, the Forum is no less respected as a part of the active life of the Borough. It now educates Glen Ridge citizens of all ages and sexes. For some, however, the “smokers” and musicals are still very vivid memories.
More Clubs and Organizations – From its earliest days, even before it became the Borough of Glen Ridge, this community has been a place of gatherings, meetings and club groups, each with its definite purpose. Some have been of a serious nature; some have met for educational reasons and some purely for pleasure. However, no matter what their purpose of meeting may have been, they cannot be underrated in importance historically, for some were the roots of the Borough’s institutions of today.
Several of the clubs came into being very early and now have gone from the Borough scene. However, while in existence, they played an important part in the life of those days. The Glen Ridge Men’s Club heads this list. It was founded July 2, 1885 by a group of men “for the purpose of recreation, diversion and rest for business and professional executives.” The club was incorporated on July 13 of that year. Its original membership numbered 36 men, but had increased to 70 by 1896 and to 150 by 1911.
Best remembered in connection with the Club was its clubhouse, erected in 1888. Its main building offered lounge space, a library and ample meeting rooms for social gatherings. A bowling alley adjoined the building in the rear. By 1905, expansion was made with the addition of a south wing with a billiard room. Tennis courts adjacent to the Ridgewood Avenue site were built on the location of the present Women’s Club.
Until the time the building was demolished to provide space for the new Post Office building, the social life of the Borough centered there. The men generously shared facilities with the ladies until their own club was opened next door. Meeting place was made available for the Battalion Forum, Red Cross and the Community Service Committee. Until its demise in 1932, when many of its oldest members had passed away and interest in it had faded, the Men’s Club was an outstanding social club. The details of its life and also of the events leading to its close were lost with the building, when the minutes of the Club were destroyed.
In 1933, at the height of the depression, a group was organized as an antidote for the dejected feeling caused by financial stress. Appropriately, it was named the “Antidoters” by Harold Kennard, one of its first members. The membership was made up of couples who met at the Women’s Club for dancing and general merriment. Its membership, which included couples from Montclair, Bloomfield and the Oranges, was limited finally to 150 couples in order to meet the space limitations of the Women’s Club. Members enjoyed parties, dances, programs and fund-raising events until 1939 when the “Antidoters” were disbanded.
In addition to the social clubs were two very early reading clubs, founded about 1890 for the purpose of sharing the enjoyment of books. The “Clio” and the “Utopians” were relatively small groups of women who met in private homes once or twice a month. “Clio” became the seed of the Glen Ridge Library, and in this way is remembered as a moving force in Borough history. The “Utopians” still meet for the reviewing of books of mutual interest to the small group.
Two men’s organizations of a service nature in existence today are the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs. Each having an international structure, the Glen Ridge groups are chapters of the whole. They meet each week at the Glen Ridge Country Club. Their purposes, though similar are far from identical. Kiwanis works to build strength of character by helping others and contributes much to the Borough in various ways. Its scholarship program for high school students is an example of this.
Rotary is a gathering of members representing the business community. Its members are educated in regard to special subject areas at its meetings. A policy of giving and supporting is also a part of its philosophy.
Another helping organization, the Community Service Committee mentioned in connection with the history of the Men’s Club, is still in existence. Its work is based on the premise that “Charity begins at home” as it is the Borough’s one social agency that operates exclusively within its borders. Closely related are the Glen Ridge Red Cross Chapter and the Glen Ridge Community Fund which give help over a much broader area.
Supported partly by the Community Fund, a recent addition to the organizations giving help to Borough residents is “Get Your Head Together.” This counseling service, headed by Brian Orr, has it offices in the Municipal Building.
A number of Glen Ridge organizations fall into a special interest area. Freeman Gardens Association, organized in 1968, is a non-profit organization which maintains and is restoring the formal gardens deeded to the Borough by the heirs of the late Clayton Freeman and Winifred Brownell Freeman, longtime residents and benefactors of the Borough. A memorial rose garden is its major feature. The gardens have been the site of planned programs of music, literary gatherings and a sanctuary for birds, trees and wild flowers.
The Glen Ridge Music Parents Association is, as its title implies, made up of parents of the many young people in the bands and music groups in the schools. They support their children with their activities, selling refreshments at the various games where music is played.
The Glen Ridge Players represented the Borough’s dramatic talent. Organized in 1952, they produced and performed in local productions of Broadway plays, exercising their talents and providing entertainment to Borough theatre goers. Their last production was done at the close of the 1960’s.
The American Field Service, founded in 1914 as a volunteer ambulance service with the French Armies in World War I, served again in World War II with the Allied Armies. In 1947, A.F.S. initiated its teenage program geared to promoting better understanding among the people of the world. Its program of International Scholarships is the United States largest secondary school student exchange program. The Glen Ridge Chapter, established in 1961, annually selects students to be hosted here and aboard for a school year with an approved family.
The Glen Ridge Rifle Club has been in existence for many years and is open to Glen Ridge residents, ages 12 to 17 years of age. Instruction is given at the police firing range.
Interest in state and national politics is manifested by the existence of Democratic and Republican organizations, the latter having representation on the Civic Conference Committee. Members of both major political parties also take part in the local political scene with representation on the committee from the Borough’s clubs and organizations. In addition to the Forum, the Women’s Club and the Home and School Associations are the North Side and South End Associations which were formed to further the interest in that part of the Borough which they represent.
The North Side Association was founded in 1910 and was one of the first members of the Civic Conference Committee at its founding in 1913. In its early days, it worked to improve railroad property in the north end of town and was responsible for the building of the footbridge over the Erie Railroad at Sherman Avenue. Today, it concerns itself with Borough problems and improvements as well as working to better conditions at Palmer Field at Forest Avenue School.
The South End Association was organized later, in 1934, with the same basic philosophy of local improvements, and has worked toward better conditions at Barrows Field, formerly Carteret Field. This recreation area is the scene of many activities of Borough importance.
Two final groups are represented in the Conference Committee membership, the Glen Ridge Taxpayers Association and the Sink or Swim Association. The Taxpayers purpose is to foster efficiency and public interest in government and to conduct research into government policies. Sink or Swim was developed in 1969 as an Ad Hoc committee to research and sustain public interest in a non-tax supported community swimming pool. Now expanded, it works toward assurance of responsive local government, high standards of excellence in public education and other civic improvements.
The direct responsibility for the way the Borough is governed through organization representation on the Civic Conference Committee, gives a depth to the importance of these organizations far beyond the immediate purpose for which they were founded.