The Birthplace of the Skaneateles Country Club

While on another errand, I learned that the Skaneateles Country Club (SCC) came into being not in Skaneateles, but in Syracuse, on Thursday, October 21, 1915, at the Empire House, also known as the Electric Railway Terminal Building, where local travelers purchased their tickets for the electric railways, circa 1900-1930. Clifford D. Beebe, whose land in Skaneateles was being leased to the SCC for its first nine-holes, was the president of the Interurban Railroad and may very well have arranged for the meeting room at the Empire House.

E.N. Trump, the club’s first president, was more fully known as Edward Needles Trump. He lived several blocks up West Genesee Street from the Empire House, and was the managing engineer, and resident genius, at Solvay Process. His estate in Skaneateles, “The Beeches,” was south of the Country Club’s site, on West Lake Road.

The day after the meeting, The Auburn Citizen reported the details:

Trump of Syracuse Is Chosen First President of the New Skaneateles Club

“E. N. Trump of Syracuse was elected president of the Skaneateles Country Club at the first meeting of the Board of Directors which was held in the rooms of the Electric Terminal Building in Syracuse yesterday afternoon. The other officers chosen were: Vice president, William J. Shotwell, president of the village of Skaneateles; secretary, Harold Stone of Syracuse; treasurer, D. C. Webster of Skaneateles.

“The articles of incorporation of the club were filed with the secretary of state in Albany. The incorporators are: E. N. Trump, Harold Ahlquist, John Wilkinson, W. S. Dunning and C. D. Beebe of Syracuse, William J. Shotwell, Forest H. Weeks and H. C. Beatty of Skaneateles.

“A committee was empowered to proceed immediately with the work of laying out the club. A club house committee was also appointed but it was explained that this work will not be started until next year. Plans, however, will be considered during the Winter. Definite negotiations for the lease of the land were finished. This tract is on the Beebe grounds and much of it lies along the lake. This club as previously stated will be composed of residents of Skaneateles and the Summer colony at the village, with a few from Auburn.”

Should you want to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the SCC, you might like some background: The site is on the north side of Clinton Square, today the home of The Post-Standard. In 1806, Henry Bogardus purchased the land and built the Mansion House. In 1844, the Mansion House was replaced by the Empire House, a Second Empire-style hotel and business building that wrapped around the corner from Genesee to Salina Street. A fire destroyed the Empire House on February 22, 1942.

The lot sat vacant for eight years, until the Atlantic Building, a two-story commercial building was built on the site. Its architectural style was variously described as Art Moderne and International, both charitable appellations. I do, however, think that Clinton Square could even today benefit from a peppy slogan like “Atlantic Keeps Your Car on the Go.”

The Empire House lasted 98 years; the Atlantic Building barely made it to 18.

In 1968, the Syracuse Newspapers tore it down for their new building, finished in 1971. And there the Post-Standard building stands today, leaving the ghosts of our Country Club’s founders with nowhere to sit.

* * *

You may wonder why the news of the Skaneateles Country Club’s founding was covered so thoroughly in The Auburn Citizen. The probable reason is this: For the wealthy golfers of the “Syracuse colony” who summered in Skaneateles, the closest links had been in Auburn, at the Owasco Country Club. A new country club in Skaneateles was news — bad news — for the Owasco Country Club’s membership.

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