By Edward S. Martin

Country Clubs And Hunt Clubs In America 118

A LONG time ago men discovered that by clubbing together they could maintain a town house on a scale of comfort and even luxury which would be very much beyond the individual means of most of them. It was convenient to have such houses, and for more than a century they have been a familiar feature of the life of great cities. The application of the same principle to the maintenance of a country estate is a matter of comparative novelty, and largely of American development.

Kennels and Stables of the Rockaway Hunt Club.

Kennels and Stables of the Rockaway Hunt Club.

The English country house abounding all over Great Britain has apparently made the country club a much less necessary appurtenance to English cities than to ours. The well-to-do and fashionable Briton hies him to town in the spring, and stays there until the summer is well advanced. While he stays in London he is abundantly occupied and amused; and when he leaves, it is to go to his country house or to a watering-place, or to travel by land or sea, or to shoot, or pay a round of visits and get ready for the hunting season. All England is a sort of country club for London, and the lesser British towns are ministered to in like manner by the rural districts about them. Sport has long been a fixed habit of the British people; and for generations provision has been made for it in foot-ball and cricket grounds, in village commons, in shooting-preserves, and in that profusion of hunt clubs which makes it difficult in the hunting-season to ride fifty miles in any direction without coming within hearing distance of a huntsman's horn.

But for the resident of an American city the conditions are different. As long as his town was small and his income limited, the urban American got on well enough. He was too busy adding to his income to have much time for recreation; he had crude ideas about playing; and when he wished to rest his eyes with a sight of the green fields, he could get into his wagon, and drive in a few minutes beyond the limits of paved streets into the country. As his city grew, his income increased, the nervous strain of living increased, the hours of his work shortened, and the strenu-ousness of his application was aggravated. He began to need more recreation, more country air, more country scenes. If the town he lived in was very big, he sometimes got himself a house in its suburbs; and whether as urban or suburban resident, he indulged himself more and more in horses. Then gradually the country clubs began to appear. Horse was usually at the bottom of them at the beginning; though bicycle has grown to be horse's rival nowadays, and, allied with golf, disputes his precedence. City people who keep horses for pleasure, or bicycles, want a place to ride and drive to. It must not be too far off, and the roads leading to it must be lit to ride over. Dwellers in suburbs want the same thing; and they want, further, more than city folks, a social centre, where balls can be had and dinners eaten, and where in the late hours of the afternoon, when the men have got back from town, they can get sight of one another, play tennis, polo, golf, or base-ball, and swap conversation, horse-points, and invitations to dinner. One purpose, further, the country club serves, - to make a summer home for bachelors whose business keeps them near town all summer, and for laborious benedicts whose families go farther away than they can follow them. It would seem, then, that there are two species of country club, - the suburban club, which grows out of the needs of the dwellers in a suburb, and that which is devised for the convenience of members who live in town. But, practically, the distinction is not very definite. There must be a city before there can be suburbs. Suburban country places are apt to cluster around a good country club, even if they were not there in the beginning; and a club designed to meet the wants of suburbanites is sure to gain a membership from city people, who want to share its privilege and enjoy its sports.

The Dining Room of the Rockaway Club.

The Dining-Room of the Rockaway Club.

After a day's run at Cedarhurst   the Rockaway Club.

After a day's run at Cedarhurst - the Rockaway Club.

Originally, as has been said, the cornerstone of the country club was Horse. When the average American began to find himself master of more money than he required for the simpler comforts of life, one of the first luxuries to which he treated himself was a horse. If he could afford more horses than sufficed for mere convenience, he kept others for pleasure. Time was when the American sole idea of a pleasure horse was a trotting-horse, and every American country town has been used these many decades to provide itself with an agricultural trotting-race track as one of its earliest necessities; but of later years, while the trotting-horse has continued to be a favorite, the taste for other varieties of equine merit has developed. Horses that are good to look at, and to haul carriages handsomely, and to carry riders, have been felt to be worth cultivating as well as horses that are good to go fast. The horse that the country clubs are interested in is the horse that hauls a dog-cart, a surrey, a tea-cart, a drag, or a plain family wagon; the horse that contributes to the perfection of a tandem or a four-in-hand; the horse that can jump a fence, and run in a steeplechase; and the small but active quadruped that carries the polo-player. In spite of the immense spread of the bicycle, it is still true that wherever you find a country club, you find a centre of interest in all these equine developments. In most country clubs polo becomes sooner or later a prominent sport. It furnishes a very active exercise for the men who play it, and a lively spectacle to the women and children and more prudent men who prefer to look on. It also serves as a summer horse-sport for those organizations which are half country, half hunt clubs, whereby men can get their summer exercise, and put themselves in proper condition for the hunting when it comes. Sometimes country clubs develop out of polo, as the Buffalo Country Club, or the Dedham Polo Club, which latter, though not strictly a country club as yet, serves many of the purposes of one to its members; sometimes polo is merely a development, as in the Country Club of Brookline or of Westchester; and oftentimes polo and country club both develop out of hunt clubs, as is the case with the Myopia Club of Hamilton, and the Mea-dowbrook and Rockaway Clubs on Long Island.