How Arcola Came To Be - An Abridged History

By Jim Craffey, Club Historian

Mr. Fritz Behnke’s family owned a farm bordered by Rt. 17 (at Century Rd.), the Ridgewood Country Club and Sprout Brook. He often used the Arcola property as a short-cut in the late 1920s early 1930s to visit friends in the area. He said the Zabriskie family grew corn and melons on the land that was sold to Arcola, and they rotated the crops with potatoes to ward off disease.

The Arcola minutes of June 17, 1909, recognize this farming activity by stating that “land-owners be allowed to take this year’s crop off the land.” Behnke said farmers of that day somewhat disregarded property boundary lines. He also noted that Sprout Brook was diverted from its original course to prevent flooding. The Saddle River was much wider then than it is now; it also flooded the area from time to time.

Arcola also sold property east of the Garden State Parkway on the west side of Sprout Brook. Arcola still owns property along Route 4 next to the Parkway entrance, a strip of about 172 feet wide which provides access to the property in the future should commercial development or new housing invade club property.

Arcola’s goal in the 1940s was to ward off higher real estate taxes on highway frontage and assess-ments for highway improvements such as sanitary sewers Selling off this property was the only defense, according to the minutes.

The property north and west of the Easton tract along Paramus Road that comprised the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th holes of the original (1912) course was approximately 63 acres in size. The Zabriskies sold Arcola this land. Arcola later sold it to Buitoni for its planned headquarters, which never materialized. A developer is now leveling the land for about 40 single family homes at prices ranging from $750,000 and up. The condos and town houses along Century Road start at $400,000.


The Initial Steps To A Golf Course

The company was organized under the commercial business laws of the state. This would change in 1945 when the by-laws were amended to change to a non-profit company organized for social, recreational purposes under a different law.

On June 17, 1909, at North Jersey Country Club, the board exercised options to purchase lands from Mr. Easton and the Zabriskie brothers, namely: 106 acres from Mr. Easton for property north by land of Jacob Yeomans, easterly by Sprout Brook, southerly by lands of Arcola CC, westerly by Par-amus Road; and 97 acres from the Zabriskie brothers for lands bounded northerly by Arcola CC and Edward D. Easton, easterly by Sprout Brook, southerly by properties of Edward D. Easton, Albert Voorhis, J. Corkery (Corkery’s Tavern) and E.D. Easton, and westerly by Paramus Road, except for 63 acres along Paramus Road already sold to Arcola CC by the Zabriskie brothers.

The Grounds Committee was authorized to procure blue prints of the property and to conduct the necessary title searches. The board also approved restrictions on use of lands purchased from Mr. Easton, as follows: “shall not at any time erect, make, carry on, permit or suffer upon any part of the premises hereby conveyed, any slaughter house, butcher shop, meat market, tallow chandler, smithshop, forge, furnace, steam engine, brass foundry, or any manufacturing for the making of gunpowder, glue, varnish, vitriol, ink, or turpentine, or for the tanning, dressing or preparing skins, hides or leather, or any brewery, distillery, or any dangerous or noxious or unwholesome or nauseous or offensive establishment or trade or business.”

At the June 17 board meeting it was reported that invitations were sent to 275 men inviting them to take shares in the corporation. Seventy-five shares of stock were subscribed for with 37 shares paid for. The Treasurer received authorization to borrow $4,000, a payment of $1,000 was made on the Zabriskie option and $1,902.95 on the Easton option, $9.35 was okayed for stationery and stamps, leaving a cash balance of $787.70.

The board formed a Grounds Committee but quite emphatically instructed the committee not to cut down trees of more than six inches in diameter without its approval. Landowners also were allowed to take this year’s crop (melons, corn and tomatoes) off the land.

Laying Out the Course

On September 21, Herbert H. Barker, Golf Architect and pro at the Garden City Golf Club, was appointed to lay out grounds for an 18 hole golf course at a rate of $25 per day. Barker was a talented young golfer from Huddersfield, England, who played on the British International Team as well as in Amateur Championships in the late 1890s. He turned pro in 1900 and left England to take the Head Pro job at Garden City.

Barker also dabbled in golf course design and construction. He soon became known as one of the best authorities in the United States on that subject. His services were in great demand for laying out new courses along with the modification and improvement of existing courses. He designed three courses in New Jersey: Arcola, Rumson CC in 1910, and Raritan Valley CC in 1911. He did not restrict himself to New Jersey, however. In 1909-1910 he was working on Newport (RI) GC, Richmond (VA) CC, Waverly (OR) GC, Spokane (WA) CC, and many others.

Herbert Barker was no slouch on the golf course. He competed in the U.S. Open a number of times. He won the Southern Open in 1920 with a record score of 298 on the East Lake course in Atlanta, home of Bobby Jones. He was a talented writer. An extensive article under his byline in The American Golfer (April 1909) compared the styles of the American versus British golfers. “The English looked better swinging,” he claimed, “but the Americans drove the ball farther and were much better putters.” He was a disciple of Devereux Emmett, who built many courses on Long Island and who was a student of the punitive school of golf course architecture: an infinitesimal number of bunkers and fast, sloping greens. Barker left Garden City in 1913 to become pro at the Roe Buck Club in Alabama.

The Club House

The Club House is christened Mar. 28 when the board holds its first meeting there. The running feud with the architect continues as the board approves charging the boiler room alterations to the architect, Floyd Parson. A six-inch thick road to the Club House is authorized on the best terms possible. The board okays Miss Graham’s inclusion as a member of the immediate family of Mr. Archie Graham and not subject to an initiation fee. Robert Barbour, Paterson, and Mortimer D. Easton, Arcola, son of Edward D., elected members.

Henry Ihnen is authorized to grade four tennis courts using the workers doing the road. F. J. Morley receives contract to build and surface the road to the Club House. John S. Cooke reports spending $5,295 for clubhouse furnishings. Locker rental set at $4.00 with larger ones costing $5.00. The amount of stock issued is limited to $27,500. Arcola is elected a member of the USGA.