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Golf

The Will Young dairy farm was just east of 70th and A streets. When the land to the west became East Hills Country Club, Young reported often finding golf balls in his alfalfa field.

Although there is still a well-hidden golf course on the southeast corner of 70th and South streets, at one point in history there were three from Wellington Greens on the south to the old Veteran’s Hospital on the north.

In 1923, well before the Sesostris Shrine Club established their country club on an original tract of about 660 acres at about 95th Street between O and A streets, East Ridge Country Club opened on an old dairy farm with its large Colonial clubhouse at 1700 S. 70th St. when Lincoln’s eastern city limits ended at 48th and A streets. The 1930 city directory listed the only golf courses as the Antelope Park Golf Club at 3827 Normal Blvd. with their clubhouse and showers in Auld Pavilion’s west basement and the Country Club of Lincoln, which had moved from South 7th Street to 3100 S. 24th St. less than a decade earlier.

At about the time of the Great Depression, East Ridge Country Club became known as East Hills Country Club. Although little evidence of the golf course’s operation survived, the swimming pool was partially filled with iced water from which a local farmer sold watermelons. In the early 1950s or late 1940s the swimming pool reopened as a private club, and the clubhouse became a locker room and meeting venue. By the late 1950s the clubhouse became known as East Hills Supper Club and by the mid-1960s was operated by Boyd R. Waddle and Paul Wilcoxen, while the swimming pool continued as a private venue for hire by the day.

In 1964 Joe Hampton purchased the 80-acre golf course land along with the swimming pool and East Hills Supper Club for $160,000. After briefly closing, Hampton reopened the supper club about 1970. Although the supper club was still open in 1977, properties around it began to be sold off to Union Savings & Loan and others. Through the years, the land was developed a piece at a time while the pool and supper club were ultimately razed as offices. When the last undeveloped lots on the southeast corner of 70th and A became the site of the Lincolnshire Square Office Building, the last visible remnant of a golf course green, from the old course, was built over.

In 1928 R. E. Campbell, president of Miller & Paine Department Store, headed a committee of the Chamber of Commerce to establish a veteran’s hospital in Lincoln. This led to the purchase of a half section of land referred to as the Leavitt property situated between A, O, 70th and 84th streets “north of the East Ridge Country Club, later known as East Hills Country Club and a half mile west of the Shrine Country Club, later Hillcrest Country Club.” The new hospital opened in 1931 on Arbor Day.

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In the 1930s about 160 acres of the hospital land was leased for farming while the hospital, with greenhouse, fire department, sewage lagoon, water plant and laundry became a self-sufficient entity. Also, in the early 1930s tennis courts were built north of the hospital and what was probably a nine-hole, sand greens golf course built to the south. As it became obvious there was still an excess of land, a portion of the south tract was sold to a developer and, in the late 1950s, a large tract was turned over to the Lincoln Public Schools and Lincoln Park Department. In order to perfect and protect the land gift a well was drilled and in 1961 Seacrest Field opened. Lincoln East Junior and Senior High School’s doors opened in 1967 with 1,431 students of which 481 were in the junior high section.

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In 1935 Thurl Strain of Continental National Bank purchased the northwest quarter of Section34 for $17,438. After World War II a major portion, then owned by and lived on by Roy Bateman, was being farmed. Jim Strauss, a principal in Strauss Brothers Construction Company, bought 115 acres of Bateman’s land in 1963 and platted Wellington Greens four years later. Bunny Richards, then golf pro at Hillcrest Country Club, was hired in 1968 to lay out a nine-hole course running from 70th Street to the east mingling with town houses and featured a clubhouse on the southwest corner of Old Post Road and South Street.

The original Leavitt house/maintenance manager’s home on the Veteran’s Hospital grounds was sold and moved several miles to the southeast while the golf course, which probably lasted only a season or two, was abandoned and is now covered by houses and the East High School campus. The last visible remnant of East Hills Country Club on the southeast corner of 70th and A streets has been built over with an office building, leaving only the Wellington Greens private course of the original three still in existence.

Lincoln buildings that have made history

Historian Jim McKee, who still writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him in care of the Journal Star or at jim@leebooksellers.com

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