Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club History
The idea for a tennis club on the “hill” that we now know as “Upper Ridgewood” was originally conceived, circa 1912, by two young ladies, Miss Grace Kent and Miss Helen Gesner (later Mrs. Walter Tomkins).They gratefully accepted an offer of land from Mr. Walter Wilsey, one of their group. This tract, on what became Bedford Road, became the Club’s location for more than fifty years.
In 1914, as membership increased, it was deemed advisable to incorporate and to take title of the land. The incorporation was then completed under State of New Jersey law, and the organization became officially known as the Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club. The land, purchased for a small amount as a result of the generosity of Mr. Wilsey and other early members, became an increasingly valuable plot.
In the early days, only men were eligible for membership. Any member of their family was extended club privileges. As family members also became involved, both the social and tennis activities increased. Since many of the members lived nearby, the Club soon became the nucleus of much of the social life in the Upper Ridgewood section of town. During the summer months, the grounds became the scene of many varied events. The first club president was Edgar Stow. It is interesting to note that Mr. Stow's daughter eventually became our first female trustee, Mary Caldwell. Mary was awarded Life Membership in 1997.
During World War II, the Club continued to function, though on a much smaller scale. With the return (from the military) of many of the members as the war concluded, along with the acceptance of new players, the enrollment grew and continued increasing until the rolls reached 1000!
The Club has been proud to have been "home" to a number of notable tennis players: Dick Palmer, rated among the “first ten” in the United States during 1910, several college tennis team captains such as Ed Heister (Dartmouth), Ray Antignat (Columbia), Jack Von Maur (Wesleyan), Ted Moock (Pennsylvania), and Vic Figlar (Rutgers). Mrs. W. R. Scott held the Bergen County Women’s title for several years, as did Helena Lynen-Hensel and Chris Byrnes. Chris, who won the county singles championship in 1958 and 1959, paired with Helena to capture the county doubles crown those years as well. Shirley Gilham, Margo Heyd, Christie Rutherford, Jane Lennon, Louise Cash, Lucille Cameron, Gisela Jordan and Eleanor Wright have also been highly rated Bergen County players.
Over the years (beginning under the extensive and devoted supervision of the late Carlton Frost) the Club has also enjoyed enviable achievements in our comprehensive junior programs. They have clearly contributed to the success of Ridgewood High School's tennis teams in attaining the state record for undefeated seasons in interscholastic competition, as well their earning many NJSIAA Boys and Girls Championships.
Recently, teams from the Club have actively been competing in the Bergen County Tennis League and have captured multiple Championships in both A and B Divisions..
We have also become a leader in platform tennis competition. Our seven courts are kept busy throughout the winter months with many of our teams successfully vying in league play as well as many of our top players achieving high individuals rankings.
As the Club’s tennis interest and membership expanded, our old Bedford Road grounds became inadequate. In 1965, an opportunity arose for acquiring the current property, adjacent to Coles Pond. The members, under the visionary and dynamic leadership of Sandy Reis, approved the purchase of our present 30 acres including woodland, pond, and stream. The move to this location was completed in 1966 after twelve tennis courts and four paddle courts were constructed. Several members played an active part in this. Led by Ned Jesser, a small group got together and built, at their own expense, the shed that houses service equipment as well as the early clubhouse. The first phase of the long-awaited clubhouse was finished in 1969. Shortly thereafter, lighting was added to the platform courts and the clubhouse area, the parking lot was landscaped, and the groundskeeper’s house was built. Three tennis courts and three platform courts were added in 1977. In 1992, 2.8 acres of property were additionally purchased The garage-workshop was completed in 1984. Also that year, a beautiful gazebo in memory of Ruth Potdevin was donated by her friends.
The spring of 1980 brought even more improvements including the second floor of our clubhouse together with the completion of the first floor. The official opening of the Club’s quarter-century dream occurred in early June with a gala opening ceremony. A crowd of 250 members and friends watched as thirteen past presidents chugged down the hill in a 1920-vintage fire truck. After a welcome by president Hamden Forkner and the ribbon cutting by Walter Myers, the oldest past-president (1936-1937), guests entered the new clubhouse to celebrate the opening with refreshments, music, and dance.
In 1981 the Club accepted an anonymous gift of $10,000 in honor of the late Dr. Reginald S. Weir. This gift established a scholarship fund for young players with tennis talent or potential, commemorating both Reggie’s high tennis standing and his many prestigious achievements.
In September 1989, the 75th Anniversary was celebrated in great style by 215 members and guests who dined under a tented-patio. Dinner was served in the lower lounge. The beautifully decorated "upstairs" was used for early evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and later, for dancing.
Our Club members continued to shine in major tennis competition. Ron Erskine played on the U.S. Satellite Circuit and also earned a high national ranking in platform tennis. Jack Schofield set a record of 40 consecutive years of play in the Bergen County Championships. In September 1996, Hank Conway and Val Orosz won both the USTA National 75 and Over Grass Court and Clay Court Doubles Championships on successive weekends. Their USTA Gold Tennis Ball Clay Court trophies, currently housed in our trophy case, were presented to them at the Army & Navy Club by President Bill Clinton. Louise Cash won the National 40 and Over Clay Court singles championship.
Hundreds of members marked our 100th Anniversary with a weekend-long Centennial Celebration in 2014 with cocktails, a barbeque, an exhibition doubles match, dinner, dancing to a live band, a Sunday brunch, and a mixed scrambles tourney, ....the works! !
We are proud of our remarkable facilities and their breathtaking surroundings.
As our members pursue the camraderie and sport that has been, and remains, the hallmark of our historic Club, we plan to continue "making history" here for decades to come !