sign on brick pedestal with word Talamore above and large gold letter T in middle of green shield below
Talamore Country Club in Horsham on the former estate of Henry Pratt McKean
sign on brick pedestal with word Talamore above and large gold letter T in middle of green shield below

Talamore ~ Bankers' Country Club

based on "Talamore at Oak Terrace" by Dr. James Hilty. Edited for the web site. The complete paper with references is available in our archives.


Talamore at Oak Terrace | Early History | Pine Run farm | McKean Manor House | Horace Trumbauer | McKean Divorce Scandal | Pine Run Country Club | Banker's Country Club | Oak Terrace Country Club ~ Wingels | The Old Oak | Slamming Sam Snead | Archdiocese of Phila | Bud Hansen | Realen | Making of a Golf Course | Rebuild 1993-1995


Bankers’ and the Great Depression.

Death of John Fretz

John Fretz never realized his Pine Run dream. Despite the wealth generated during the Bull market boom era of the 1920s, Pine Run failed to prosper. New clubs opened in the area and existing clubs improved their facilities, drawing away membership from Pine Run. In 1927 alone, Melrose CC opened, Lulu Temple CC dedicated a new clubhouse, and Huntingdon Valley CC began construction of its magnificent Horace Trumbauer-redesigned clubhouse.

While other clubs prospered, Pine Run struggled. Then, in 1927 John Fretz, Pine Run’s president and principal investor died suddenly, forcing the sale of the club. The club floundered through the 1927 season. In April 1928, the Ambler Gazette reported that a prospective purchaser named C. C. Lewis announced plans to purchase the club and operate it as a “select country club operated by its members.” Lewis may have been an agent for James P. Rothwell, Jr., who purchased the entire club and its 208 acres in November 1928. When Lewis’s ambitious plan failed to materialize, some of Philadelphia's leading financial lights moved quickly to gain control of the property.

Banker's Country Club

In September 1928, a group of Philadelphia bankers, insurance executives, and investment managers formed the Bankers' Realty Company to lease and then purchase the 208-acre Pine Run Country Club property for $250,000, with Rothwell likely acting as their agent. The property included the golf course (eighteen holes), tennis courts, swimming pool, and clubhouse. Bankers' Realty Company, headed by J. Vaughan Clarke and Jay Cooke, 2d, announced that, by charter, 80 percent of the membership had to be "affiliated with" or "connected" to a Philadelphia "business house in the Bank, insurance or financial field." More than four hundred members were enrolled by December.

The gala opening of Bankers' Country Club occurred December 1, 1928. Newspapers reported that "several hundred" guests from Philadelphia and the suburbs gathered for a day of festivities, including a tea dansante in the afternoon and an evening dinner-dance. Weekly dances at the club continued throughout the winter, attracting as many as two-hundred-fifty members and guests. The parents of some current Talamore residents fondly recall the elegant settings and good times at the club during the "Roaring 'Twenties," when Prohibition was the law but good times were the rule.

By 1929 there were over 4,500 golf courses in America, but only one in Horsham Township. Bankers' Country Club was the one. This, however, was the era of Bobby Jones. Golf had become wildly popular, particularly among the professional and business classes. When the growing demand was combined with the energies of the new owners, Bankers’ consequently attracted golfers to join "at a rate unknown” among other clubs affiliated with the Golf Association of Philadelphia.

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New demands and new expectations soon made the Alexander Findlay layout inadequate. The existing course, according to the new owners, was "indifferently planned and maintained" and, thus, "fell far short of the needs of a country club." During the winter and early spring of 1929 the Pine Run course was renovated and "modernized." The changes to the course, under the supervision of Jock Neville, the club professional, were numerous but not intended to alter its general design. Findlay’s small greens were enlarged, new tees were built, and sand traps added, but the routing of holes remained the same

Intent on setting a “new standard” for country clubs in the area, the owners upgraded the entire facility. The interior of the McKean mansion (used as a clubhouse) was remodeled and refurbished. Dining rooms were expanded, a men’s grille added, and eighteen guest rooms created on the upper floors. Fourteen houses and cottages, ranging from four to eighteen rooms in size, were renovated and made available as member residences. The swimming pool behind the mansion (clubhouse) was virtually reconstructed. An outdoor dance floor was put down near the clubhouse terrace. Dancing was available every night except Sunday.

Bankers’ Country Club managed to survive the stock market crash of October 1929 and to hang on fitfully as the subsequent economic slide carried the US deeper into the Great Depression. As the 1932 season opened, members contemplated the impact of rising unemployment, failing banks, depreciating currency, and falling stock prices, yet they decided to plunge ahead with additional capital expenditures.

In that year of unprecedented economic turmoil, Cedarbrook and Manufacturers Country Clubs decided, according to news reports, to “leave well enough alone.” However, the more optimistic (some might say foolhardy) Bankers’ Country Club decided to continue its expansion program. Believing it a time to get the jump on their competition, Bankers’ hired a new greenskeeper (Phillip Williams, who worked with Joe Valentine at Merion for ten years) and a new pro (Johnny Schuebel, a US Open qualifier the previous two years, formerly at LuLu Temple CC). Phillip Williams oversaw an extensive improvement program, leading to the reconstruction of fifteen greens and their reseeding with the “Washington strain of creeping bent grass,” the latest, most advanced strain of grass for the surfaces of greens. Also, several tees were enlarged.

Over six thousand banks failed between January 1932 and February 1933, and many businesses, including Bankers’ Country Club, suffered as a consequence. By the mid-point of the 1932 season Bankers’ was no longer able to be either restrictive or discerning when it came to its members. To attract patrons they began offering cut-rate prices, even advertising in the newspapers for members. “Why give up your golf,” a Bankers’ Country Club ad asked Inquirer readers, “when you can join a private club for as low as $15, without initiation fee and then pay a small green fee of 50 cents weekdays, $1 Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays?” Boasting a “large outdoor terrace for dining and dancing,” Bankers’ Country Club offered “special memberships” for $50, to include full golf privileges.

The ads failed. Not even the repeal of Prohibition in October 1933 could save Bankers’ Country Club. The unrelenting Depression struck the Ambler area with devastating impact. The Keasbey-Mattison asbestos empire collapsed, forcing the closure of their Ambler plant, which had become the borough’s economic lifeblood. The once privileged and protected upper classes lost their fortunes and their social leverage. One by one the pretentious country estates were sold and converted to public use or were demolished.

Private golf clubs in the northeast US were particularly hard hit by the Depression. Hundreds of clubs failed. Many were taken over by municipalities and, if they survived at all, became public courses. In 1931, according to the National Golf Foundation, 78 percent of all American golf facilities were private. By 2002 public facilities accounted for 61 percent of the total.

To no one’s surprise, in July 1934 the Bankers’ Country Club property went up for sheriff’s sale, to be purchased by the Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities (PCILGA). A trustee of the Bankers’ Country Club debt, PCILGA, with offices in Philadelphia at 15th and Chestnut Streets, purchased title to the club evidently for the price of the outstanding mortgages and taxes on the property. PCILGA kept on many of Banker’s employees and continued operation of the golf club, changing its name to Oak Terrace Country Club. All the while, the insurance company sought ways to unburden themselves of the obligation. As the Great Depression deepened, few persons had either the interest or the means to purchase a golf club.


Next ~ Oak Terrace Country Club ~ Wingels =>


Dr. James Hilty

photo of Dr Jame Hilty
Dr Jame Hilty - retired Professor of History and Dean of Ambler College, Temple University





Dr. James W. Hilty, retired Professor of History and Dean of Temple's Ambler campus, has written extensively about American politics, including Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector (Temple). He has provided political commentaries for various publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and served as historical consultant to various news media, including C-SPAN, NBC News, NPR, and others. A Temple faculty member since 1970, Hilty also wrote the introduction to Marvin Wachman's The Education of a University President (Temple).


Dr. James Hilty

photo of Dr Jame Hilty
Dr Jame Hilty - retired Professor of History and Dean of Ambler College, Temple University





Dr. James W. Hilty, retired Professor of History and Dean of Temple's Ambler campus, has written extensively about American politics, including Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector (Temple). He has provided political commentaries for various publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and served as historical consultant to various news media, including C-SPAN, NBC News, NPR, and others. A Temple faculty member since 1970, Hilty also wrote the introduction to Marvin Wachman's The Education of a University President (Temple).




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Route Debugger

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