NEW CASTLE — All that remains of a golf course tucked into a quaint Croton District neighborhood 90 years ago is acres of rough.
The abandoned nine-hole course known as The Field Club has been unrecognizable for at least five decades.
A map attributed to Art Leslie in 1996 shows the course as it existed in 1923, bordered by Croton Avenue to the north, Scott Street on the west and Vine Street to the east. The property also featured a clubhouse and a tennis court with an entrance to the facilities from Vine Street.
“I grew up in that area and knew about it because of stories people told me,” said Robert Presnar, program director at The Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts.
Golf early in the 20th century was played almost exclusively on country club courses.
Local historian Jeff Bales Jr. of Lawrence County Memoirs said The Field Club was the forerunner of the New Castle Country Club as we know it today. He said that in 1900 a group of wealthy and prominent men founded the New Castle Golf Club. “They leased some land — the Elder Farm between Vine and Scott streets — to set up a small country club with golf and tennis.”
News articles in the 1930s and 1940s referenced the Field Club as a site for golf, but Bales believes it might not have been the original location. He said when the Croton property was involved in foreclosure or other legal matters and came up for sale, members decided to relocate and build a larger country club elsewere. In 1922, they purchased the Chapin Farm just off Wilmington Road for that purpose.
“I believe they may have initially called it New Castle Field Club,” said Bales. “But it was formally known as the New Castle Country Club.
Richard Costello has lived at 112 S. Scott St. all of his 78-plus years. At age 10, Costello remembers going into the woods across the street and finding remnants of a golf course. “I could see the different colors of grass where the greens had been,” he said.
Costello said a baseball diamond known as Marshall Field would later become the focal point of the property. “It was one of the best ballfields in Lawrence County,” he recalled.
Ken Kramer is the project manager for Thomas & Williamson, which is constructing the new Lockley Learning Center on the site. He wasn’t surprised by the news that a golf course part of the landscape.
He cited a topographical survey that showed several flat areas. Kramer was able to identify those as greens from the course.
Kramer also noted that a foundation of what was probably the clubhouse was discovered when equipment was leveling an area east of the school that will serve as a parking lot.
Kramer said crews have discovered “a lot of golf balls” during the project, which began in December 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by January 2014 when students from Kennedy, Thaddeus Stevens and West Side schools will report to the facility.
An avid golfer, Kramer said it was unlikely that any of the balls found by workers were from the ancient course, which was in its prime in the 1920s. He said most of the golf balls were inscribed with modern brand names.
Costello confirmed Kramer’s findings with his own personal testimony. “I think I’m responsible for some of those golf balls. I used to come up here and try to hit them over the trees.”