NH: Country Club District

A Dream Come True

NH-CountryClub

William M. Ladd’s Iron Mine Farm became the Oswego Lake Country Club

The concept of creating Country Club Districts near large cities was spreading across the nation in the 1920s. Why waste precious hours of leisure time commuting to the golf links? George F. Cotterill, former Seattle mayor and a well-respected civil engineer, was hired to design the overall plan of the district. Prized Jersey cows once grazed on William M. Ladd’s Iron Mountain Farm, the site of the golf course.

Although the country club was the centerpiece of the vision for Oswego, the polo field was among the first amenities to be built. Again, the Ladd Estate Company altered nature to suit their purposes. According to a 1928 newspaper report, the swampy area, depicted on old maps as “Prosser’s Swale” or “Spring Brook Marsh,” was cleared and “1,400 sticks of dynamite were used to change the course of the creek in the site selected for the field.” An arena designed by John Davis Annand, Sr. featuring magnificent bowstring arch trusses was added in 1938. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is believed to be the largest and oldest wooden arena in the West. The arena and polo field now belong to the Lake Oswego Hunt.

Mining tunnels still riddled the hillside above the polo field, but railroad tracks that once carried ore cars from the Prosser Iron Mine to the blast furnace were dismantled and the rail bed became part of the system of bridle trails that crisscrossed Iron Mountain.

Golf was the sport that quintessentially defined leisure in the 1920s and attracted the type of residents Murphy desired. Henry Chandler Egan, for whom three Oswego streets are named, designed the 18-hole course constructed for $500,000 and completed in 1925. Some of the terrain was so steep that a Pierce Arrow open touring car rigged to a cable system transported club members to the twelfth tee. Egan had a distinguished career as a golf course designer and later renovated the course at Pebble Beach. Backyards adjoining the links literally blurred the separation between living and playing. Portland architect Morris Homans Whitehouse designed the elegant Arts and Crafts style clubhouse. The town’s transition from pig iron to nine irons was complete.

As business grew, a Ladd Estate Company branch sales office was built in 1928 on the southwest corner of Country Club Drive and Tenth Street; A Avenue was paved to provide easier access to the office and the district. The Ladd Estate Model House next door, dating from 1936 exemplifies the design standards and quality construction envisioned for the entire district. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Across the street another model house designed by Richard Sundeleaf was built by the Johns-Manville Company to showcase innovative products such as asbestos.

To accommodate visiting golfers and others, the Ladd Estate Company had plans to build a grand resort hotel between the lake and the river in Old Town, but the project was one of their few undertakings that never materialized.