HistoryNative Americans, Early Pioneers, A U.S. President, the Canton Outing Club, and Donald Ross
It all began with the glacier. This natural event created the Club’s most precious natural resource, Congress Lake. Historians agree that before the peaceful Delaware Tribe came to this part of Ohio, their ancestral prehistoric relatives, the Mound Builders, were the first to inhabit the area. Remains of the Mound Builders are documented on a map of prehistoric Ohio. One location, a conical mound, is located on the Western shore of our lake.
The origin of the name of our lake has been controversial. Some believe it is derived from the conferences or “Congresses” of the Native Americans that were often held at the Lake. The more generally agreed upon opinion is that the Lake was named because it lies within what was known as the “Congress Lands.” Its name came from an early surveyor.
In 1802, an Act of Congress fixed the boundaries of Ohio. The larger, more southern part of Congress Lake was located in the “Congress Lands,” while the more northern section of the lake was located in the “Connecticut Western Reserve.” Shortly after Ohio was admitted as a state in 1803, Conrad Brumbaugh laid claim to a significant amount of land boarding the eastern shore of Congress Lake. One of Ohio’s earliest settlers, his pioneer log home and barn complete with the family plot still stand on Club grounds.
A Private Resort and the Canton Outing Club
Shortly after the Civil War, Congress Lake became a popular recreation area. Canton residents would drive three hours by horse and buggy on a narrow dusty road to enjoy the pleasures of Congress Lake. According to a Prospectus of the Canton Outing Club, one of the former owners of the property, a “Boston Capitalist” - expended $50,000 on the pavilion grounds. A 20 room hotel, cottages, and dance pavilion were built around 1880. By the early 1880s, the property was owned and operated by the Connotton Valley Railroad. The trip by rail to Congress Lake made the journey much more convenient. People from Canton could board the morning train to the lake and return the same evening. In 1893 the railroad, which had been renamed the Cleveland Canton and Southern, went into receivership. The resort was reorganized by a group of Canton’s leading executives and was renamed The Canton Outing Club. They purchased the land and assets from the railroad. Some of the assets included an icehouse, the hotel, four cottages, a pavilion, some farmland, and an orchard. In 1896 the name Canton Outing Club was changed to our current name, the Congress Lake Club Company.
Congress Lake and the President of the United States
The ownership of the lake was acquired largely through the efforts of Ohio Governor and future President of the United States, William McKinley, who was an original stockholder, and member, of the Congress Lake Club. The title of the lake passed from the United States to the State of Ohio in December 1893 and from the State of Ohio to the Canton Outing Club in 1894.
Golf at the New Congress Lake Club: Willie Park Jr. and Donald Ross
Beginning the 20th Century, members built a nine-hole golf course in front of the present clubhouse. In 1912 the decision was made to erect a new hotel and clubhouse. Canton’s leading architect, Guy Tilden, designed the clubhouse. It was completed in 1913 at an approximate cost of $75,000 with an outrageous $15,000 spent on furnishings.
In 1919 thirty-eight acres of new lands were added to the club to expand the course to 18 holes. Willie Park Jr., the British Open Champion in 1887 and 1889 and one of the great classical golf course architects of the era, was commissioned to design the new course. Park had already created such classic gems as the Old Course of Sunningdale in London, the Maidstone Golf Club on Long Island, and Olympia Fields in Chicago. Park’s course opened for play in 1923.
The membership was quite taken by this new game and requested more. In 1926 when more land became available, the club’s commissioned the greatest course architect in history, Donald Ross, to rework the Park original routing. Ross creations are legendary and include Pinehurst, Oak Hill, Seminole, and most of the great courses of all time. He modified the first seven holes and designed the next ten. The original Park design of #18 was kept intact by Mr. Ross. The Donald Ross Course at Congress Lake opened for play in 1932 and has become our most famous asset.
Growth and Notoriety After WWII
The post-war years saw the Club grow with the nation. More permanent homes were built at the Lake. The first swimming pool was added in 1950. Clubhouse expansions and renovations in 1946, 1960, 1989 and 2006 increased the size and scope of operations. The Practice Facility was opened in 2001.
Golfing legends, major winners, and tour players have regularly played the course including Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Denny Shute, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan. Legend has it that Hogan told Jack Paar on the old Tonight Show that if he could only play one course for the rest of his life, he would choose Congress Lake.
For 118 years, the Congress Lake Club has remained the most unique private social club in Ohio. CLC has changed with the times, but one thing has remained constant: the Club’s commitment to providing its membership with incomparable service and the unparalleled amenities in a relaxed, family-oriented atmosphere.
The 1914 Congress Lake Year Book states that the club, “…has the unique distinction of combining within itself every activity that any Club in this part of the country, organized for the pleasure of its member, can engage in…and gives it an attractiveness that cannot be found elsewhere. “ This still rings true today.
Generations of members and guests have enjoyed Congress Lake Club. It generates many fond memories for its members and guests. It generates special bonds of friendship. Our club’s strength lies in its members, because our members promote a sense of belonging and caring toward others.