In 1890, thirty-nine of the leading citizens of this young, blooming city on Elliott Bay founded the Olympic Tennis Club with two clay courts at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Minor Avenue on First Hill. The newspaper at the time reported that it was the only "large club" in Seattle. By 1894, the initiation fee was set at $10, and dues for the year were another $10. The following year, a Ladies' Branch of the Club was created. The name was formally changed from Olympic Tennis Club to Seattle Tennis Club at the 1896 annual meeting.
Want to learn more? Side By Side: The City of Seattle and the Seattle Tennis Club by Junius Rochester (2015)
Interest in tennis grew over the next few years and became a staple activity for many of the city’s prominent citizens. By 1919, the membership realized the need for a larger facility and instructed the Board of Trustees to obtain the Firloch Canoe Club grounds on the shore of Lake Washington in Madison Park, a popular picnic destination. To reach the new site in the early years of the decade, most members boarded the cable car that traveled along Madison Street from downtown to the ferry landing on Lake Washington. They walked south to the Clubhouse on 40th Avenue’s rough plank roadway, sharing the road with horse drawn wagons. Lake Washington’s water level had been lowered nine feet in 1916 when the locks of the Lake Washington Ship Canal were opened.
The Clubhouse had been located just a few feet from the lake, it stood high and dry with a broad bank sloping to the water’s edge. There were only four oiled dirt tennis courts when the Club moved to the Madison Park neighborhood. Faced with the social and economic challenges of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, the members of the Seattle Tennis Club continued to move forward and progressively added outdoor and indoor courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and improved the Clubhouse facilities.
An $11.5 million renovation was completed in June 1999. The remodeling revealed several aspects of Club construction that dated back to those very early days of the Firloch Canoe Club. Extremely wet soil conditions under the oldest part of the Clubhouse forced the contractor to drive pilings the height of 4 1/2 Space Needles. Horseshoe nails were found holding the framing of the original Clubhouse together, perhaps the farrier’s nails from those early horse drawn wagons.
Today’s Club sits on roughly 8 acres and offers its 3000-plus members 19 tennis courts, including 6 indoor and 3 clay courts, a gymnasium, fitness center, masage room, squash courts, locker rooms, several dining rooms, banquet facilities, pool, beach, boathouse and Pro Shop. Every year the Club hosts the Washington State Open, the most prestigious tennis tournament in the State.
In 2014, the Club invested almost $7 million dollars in making the Indoor Court Building wheelchair accessible by providing an ADA approved passage from the main clubhouse to the indoor tennis courts, located on the north end of the property. In addition, the Club added a second level viewing area of the indoor courts, with a large screen television, portable bar area and elevator access, outdoor court-side terrace seating, a newly renovated Pro Shop and renovation of a deteriorating bulkhead and North Lawn area for catering to large outdoor weddings and events. The result was phenomenal and makes the Seattle Tennis Club one of the most sought-after tennis and wedding venues in the country.
To learn more about the history of the Seattle Tennis Club, click the link below:
SIDE BY SIDE: The City of Seattle and the Seattle Tennis Club
by Junius Rochester (2015):
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