Club History

Lexington holds a special place in Kentucky history and geography. Founded in 1775, and named after the famed Massachusetts battle where the "shot heard ´round the world"; opened the American Revolution, the Kentucky frontier town rapidly evolved into a remarkably sophisticated and cultured community. Lexington became home for a substantial elite of prominent citizens, accomplished in a wide range of endeavors. For their leisure moments, Lexington society enjoyed horse racing, fox hunting, church functions, theatre and theatricals, opera, parks, various service clubs and fraternal orders, restaurants, taverns, and cafés. The town still lacked a special locus for social recreation. Local society leaders recognized this shortcoming, and moved toward a solution. "Thanks to the "enterprise, energy, and public spirit"; of such community leaders as Richardson Gibson, James L. DeLong, Charles S. Lesher, Henry Duncan Jr., and William Ambrose Dudley Short,"; wrote the Leader, "there is the prospect of a country club for Lexington."; All of these men were identified as "familiar with club life"; in the East. The club would serve "the most prominent and wealthy citizens of Lexington and the county,"; and, if successful, the Leader recorded that "Blue Grass society will be under a debt of gratitude to these gentlemen.";
A social and recreational club for Lexington and vicinity seemed a good idea; finances and purpose were the immediate questions to address to bring such a club into reality. To further that interest, other important local businessmen and community leaders were recruited to bring forth the financial support needed for such an ambitious undertaking. Several of the local horse farm owners were approached and brought into the enterprise, such as James B. Haggin of Elmendorf Farm, L. V. Harkness of Walnut Hall, Foxhall Keene (owner of the famed race horse Domino), August Belmont (co-founder of the American Jockey Club and owner of race horse Man ´O War), and William Whitney.
Defining the Club’s purpose was considerably easier than determining where funding would come from, and was delineated in the Lexington Leader’s society column: History "Think of having a charming place near town in easy driving distance, with an opportunity to enjoy country life in its most finished sense! Where men after business hours can go and take their families and guests for luncheon or dinner, outdoor and indoor games, where there are beautiful lawns and tennis and golf grounds and society in general go for dances and all sorts of diversions. In this way the most wholesome kind of social enjoyment can be developed and people have that for which they so often long and sigh, a perfect resort for entertainment outside of their own homes. In nearly every other city in America there is something on this order--a country club or a hunting club."; Within a month, these men, along with others who were interested and able to provide support for the founding of a club, met to plan a course of action. According to the Lexington Leader’s report from the following day: "There was quite a large and interested meeting of the subscribers to the proposed Country Club at the court house last night and judging from the celerity with which the movement to establish a country club has grown, it is evident--now that Lexington people have waked up--that we shall have a country club building and grounds in which the community can feel a pardonable pride."; Many of Lexington’s most prominent gathered together for the organizational meeting, and all seemed to be willing to undertake various positions to help move towards the founding of a Country Club. George C. Webb presided over the assemblage, with Dr. G. D. Kelley as secretary. Those in attendance decided to pass a resolution proposing the formation of a committee of fifteen men to draw up plans and incorporate the Club. These men were referred to as the Lexington Country Club’s first Board of Governors: Dr. H. M. Skillman, J. R. Morton, John T. Shelby, John R. Allen, R. P. Stoll, W. J. Loughridge, Sam J. Roberts, H. P. Headley, George C. Webb, Elliott Shanklin, R. T. Gibson, H. T. Duncan Jr., W. S. Bronston, H. M. Waite, and James A. Todd, all making up a veritable Who’s Who of early twentieth century Lexington society. These men were selected from 169 subscribers in attendance. The new Board of Governors, plus many other Club subscribers, returned to meetings throughout the autumn season to finalize the details of the Club.
Before the end of 1901, the Club had created its Articles of Incorporation with those who would become many of the early members listed on the document. Finally a location on Paris Pike was selected. In those days, Paris Pike was a narrow dirt road marginally suitable for horse traffic. Early transportation to the Club site consisted of horse and buggy rides along dirt roads several miles from the center of the city of Lexington. Thankfully during the early years of the Club, an electric street railway system interurban line ran service from Lexington along Paris Pike to the Club and a nearby amusement park. Club members could, for a nominal fee, ride the railway from downtown Lexington to an interurban stop less than a mile away from the Club. Although this may sound like a tremendous improvement, getting to the Club on foot that last mile could be treacherous. There were no sidewalks or paved roads, so Club members would walk on dirt or gravel roads, at best, or trudge through muddy ruts during the rainy season. Additionally, golf bags were not invented until a few decades later, so members would either rent locker space at the Club or have to carry their golf clubs held together by a leather strap or belt. By January 1907, Lexington Country Club hired the firm of Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, and C. E. Richards of Richards, McCarty & Bulford of Columbus, Ohio, to conduct various improvements on the Club property. According to a newspaper report of the time, "Mr. Olmsted, together with Mr. Richards, will have charge of the placing of the