Friday, July 16, 2021

Rose City Golf Clubhouse


Eastern Facade, Rose City Clubhouse

While navigating around the city, it’s always interesting to notice nice old buildings that would benefit from sensitive restoration.

 High on my list is the clubhouse at the Rose City Golf Course.  Finished in 1932 in the English cottage architectural style, the building reflects an interesting  moment in municipal golf and clubhouse design.  Rose City supporters delved deep into that history in compiling an application in 2012 that succeeded in placing it on the National Register of Historic Places.

 “The exterior of the clubhouse retains excellent integrity of materials, craftsmanship and design,” the application noted.  Alas, the building’s interior has been seriously abused and changed by renovations dating to the 1960s and 1970s.

  The building design, by Portland architect Herbert Angell, shows several classic English cottage elements:  a strong, steeply pitched roof, asymmetrical facades, large chimney, dormers, multi-paned windows, both brick and shingled walls.  Angell's original plan also included stone in the facades, another key element of the English cottage style, but stone was removed from the final plan to cut costs.

  Rose City is the oldest surviving municipal clubhouse among Portland’s five public courses, and is believed to be the oldest of the municipal variety in Oregon.

 Portland’s city government jumped into the golf business in 1918 with the opening of Eastmoreland Golf Course, where the original clubhouse has been replaced.  The object of municipal golf in the era was to provide an option for lower and middle-class citizens to participate in a sport dominated by wealthy private golf clubs.

 The first primitive nine holes at Rose City were laid out by golfers acting without permission on a portion of the Rose City Race Track, which early in the century hosted races involving cars, horses and motorcycles.  The city parks department took the hint and opened the first nine holes in 1923, followed by the second nine in 1927.

The purpose of a clubhouse, whether private or public at the time, was to provide a “home away from home” for golfers.  That meant lounges, food service, and lockers in addition to golf essentials.  In normal times, the Rose City clubhouse is commonly used for drinking beer, eating burgers, playing cards and watching golf on television.

 For whatever reasons, the interior at Rose City was remodeled for changes that have not stood up well over time.  The grand fireplace with a stone hearth was covered over by sheetrock, and could easily be restored.  Dropped ceilings have covered up the timbered ceiling, some of which remains above the second floor hidden from public view.

Western (rear) Facade

  A few years ago, Bill Hart, a principal of the Carleton-Hart architecture firm and a member of the Park Bureau’s golf advisory committee, prepared a preliminary plan for renovation of the Rose City clubhouse.  His plan would restore some of the historic elements of the interior, improve the dining facilities, and upgrade the patio into a more pleasant and functional space.   The proposed patio and dining room ostensibly could make the clubhouse more attractive for use by non-golfers.

 Alas, the city golf fund, which operates the five city courses without subsidy from the general fund, will never generate enough revenue to finance the extensive renovation.  At present, the golf fund barely covers operational costs, although the pandemic has boosted activity and revenue.  Renovation at Rose City would require fund-raising from some other source.

Hank Childs, the Rose City golf concessionaire, once proposed a public fund drive for the project, which he said included a major donor willing to assist.  However, the plan was never approved by the Parks Bureau. Undertaking a fund drive would require firm resolve from the bureau and the city commissioner in charge of parks.   

 In the past few years, responsibility for the bureau has shifted from Commissioner Amada Fritz to Commissioner Nick Fish, to  Mayor Ted Wheeler, back to Fritz and now to Carmen Rubio. With no firm hand on the controls, further deterioration of the clubhouse seems inevitable as time moves on.

 If you can think of notable old buildings you’d like to see restored for current or better uses, feel free to list them here.  Maybe public involvement can encourage positive change.

----Fred Leeson

South Park Blocks Master Plan update: After a lengthy presentation and testimony from more than 50 people on July 15, the City Council continued its discussion of the plan to the morning agenda on July 21.  Despite heavy opposition to the plan from citizens, the council showed no outward inclination to suggest or recommend changes.  However, even if the plan is passed, there will be opportunities in the future to make reasonable objections as implementation unfolds.  We'll discuss that in more detail later. 

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