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Club History and Timeline

Brooklawn Country Club:
Drawing on the Past, Living into the Present, Building for the Future


Golf and tennis plus a range of recreational activities, an active social life, a place for families and friends. What was true of Brooklawn Country Club at the close of the 19th century is true of the club today. It’s the same … but evolved for the 21st century. A 9-hole course designed by members is now one of the finest courses in Connecticut; three dirt tennis courts are a now seven-court tennis center; where no pool existed is a swimming and recreational complex; a farmhouse that once served as the clubhouse is today’s 50,000-square-foot center of club social life. Yet members are here today for the same reasons they were well over a century ago: to recreate, relax, enjoy themselves, share experiences with family and friends.

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The year was 1895. Bridgeport was not only the beating heart of industry in Connecticut, but also one of the great cities of New England and the entire United States. Bankers, entrepreneurs and merchants energized the city. The establishment of business clubs, yacht clubs and country clubs was on the horizon. After all, the wealthy wanted places where they could relax, have fun and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

In that environment, the power and commerce elite of Bridgeport began to discuss the formation and structure of a new club where they could bring their families for the enjoyment of various athletic and social activities. The group was led by Dr. I. DeVerWarner, one of the Bridgeport’s most powerful businessmen. In May of 1895, Brooklawn Country Club was founded, officially incorporated as the Brooklawn Club Corporation.

At about the same time, Clapp Spooner, a wealthy business owner himself, had the idea of fine homes in a planned community on the outskirts of Bridgeport. Over the years, he acquired farms and other land and eventually his dream came alive when he assembled a large and impressive tract that he named “Brooklawn Park.” The newly formed Brooklawn Club Corporation signed a lease with Spooner for 60 acres and the use of a farmhouse and barn as its clubhouse facilities (sited where today’s 15th green is located). The catalyst practically ensuring the success of this venture in days well before automobiles were in common use was the extension of the trolley line down Brooklawn Avenue (now Stratfield Road) virtually to the front door of the clubhouse. Such was the beginning of Brooklawn Country Club.

At the time of the club’s founding, golf was a newly arrived import from the British isles and right away it became a central part of club life. Golf shared the spotlight with baseball, archery, tennis and trap shooting in those early years. Aquatics had a less than auspicious start at Brooklawn, as construction of a pool was approved by just a single vote in a referendum of members … and that wasn’t until 1932. Platform tennis debuted in the 1940s. Bowling goes back farther in time; the first two lanes date to 1897 and an era when pins were set by hand; that changed in the mid-1960s when the club installed what was considered “high tech”—automated pinspotters. Of course, social life has always been the hub of club activity, evidenced by the fact that just two decades after its founding Brooklawn built its present clubhouse, which the media promptly labeled “the showcase of Bridgeport.”

Brooklawn today continues to build for the future. A 17-bay maintenance facility for golf course and grounds equipment opened in 2019. Plans are in the works for a complete renovation of the first floor of the clubhouse as well as an expansion of the platform tennis center. And the club continues to have an active membership, a sound financial structure and dedicated professionals leading the golf, tennis, platform tennis and swimming programs.

The timeline that follows highlights notable events and people in Brooklawn’s long history. There are many: legendary golfers like Gene Sarazen whose game was formed at Brooklawn; four United States Golf Association championships; and a golf course that bears the unmistakable hand of golden age architect Albert Warren Tillinghast. 


Brooklawn Historical Highlights


Dr. I.DeVer Warner

1895

Brooklawn founded by Bridgeport industrialists and financiers led by Dr. I. DeVer Warner
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Club rents land with existing farmhouse for use as clubhouse
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Members lay out original 9-hole golf course

Certificate

1896

Brooklawn becomes one of the earliest members of the United States Golf Association

1897

Two bowling lanes installed at the clubhouse

1899

First tournament organized by the League of Connecticut Golf Clubs held at Brooklawn; group later becomes Connecticut State Golf Association

1900

Two-time Open Championship winner J.H. Taylor plays matches at Brooklawn

Tennis

1903

Club builds three dirt tennis courts
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Four-time U.S. Open champion Willie Anderson wins the inaugural (and only) Brooklawn Open

Georginanna Bishop

1904

Brooklawn member Georgianna Bishop wins the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Merion Golf Club

1905

Club purchases land previously rented for the golf course, clubhouse and other structures as well as additional land now occupied by 17th and 18th holes and tennis center

1910

Club purchases Cornell Farm, enabling expansion of golf course to 18 holes

Clubhouse

1916

Present clubhouse opens; six new clay tennis courts built on site of present tennis center

1917-1918

Gene Sarazen hired as assistant in golf shop

1920

Golfing legends Harry Vardon, Ted Ray and Francis Ouimet compete in exhibitions at Brooklawn

Watty Watterson

1921

Member “Watty” Watterson plays on victorious U.S. Davis Cup team; later inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame

A.W. Tillinghast

1932

Course redesigned by A. W. Tillinghast opens for play; Gene Sarazen headlines opening event five days after winning the U.S. Open
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Brooklawn opens its first swimming pool

1940's

Two platform tennis courts installed

1974

Club hosts U.S. Junior Amateur

1979

Club hosts U.S. Women’s Open

U.S. Senior Open

1987

Club hosts U.S. Senior Open

100th Anniversary

1995

Brooklawn marks 100th anniversary with black tie gala among other events
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Current swimming pool opens
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Tiger Woods holds clinic for Bridgeport youth
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Summer vacation Kids’ Club established

Summer Vaction Kids Club

2001

Current tennis center opens with new pavilion, seven courts, lights for night play

U.S. Girls Junior Championship

2003

Club hosts U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

EVENT CANCELLED

2020

Brooklawn celebrates 125th anniversary
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Club scheduled to host 3rd U.S. Senior Women’s Open; postponed by USGA due to COVID-19