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
Oak Terrace Country Club – The “Bud” Hansen Years
In 1979 Elmer F. Hansen stepped forward with a proposal to help the Archdiocese solve their cemetery problem and a plan to rescue Oak Terrace Country Club. Hansen struck an agreement with the Archdiocese to exchange land he owned in Bucks County, land properly suited for a cemetery, for the right to manage and eventually buy the Oak Terrace Country Club and adjoining parcels owned by the Archdiocese. In return, the Archdiocese received a large tract of land at County Line and Upper State Roads in Bucks County, now the site of St. John Neumann Cemetery.
Elmer “Bud” Hansen had established himself as a successful builder and developer, having constructed Blue Bell’s Sentry Park and several other high-profile office complexes and private homes. In March 1981 Hansen purchased the former McKean manor house and began restoring the long-neglected building to its former stateliness, intending it for use as his corporate headquarters. With Oak Terrace as his base, Hansen expanded operations in the 1980s, acquiring several large tracts of land in Florida, the Philadelphia suburbs, and elsewhere for golf course, commercial, and residential development. With assets exceeding $1 billion, Hansen, at one point, employed over 1,200 people. Hansen Group’s four major divisions included Hansen Properties, Hansen Lifestyles, Executive Suites, and Hansen Leisure Time.
Oak Terrace fell under Hansen’s Leisure Time division, which commenced an extensive advertising and marketing campaign aimed at bringing new members to the club and at restoring the club’s reputation as a private facility. Few substantive changes were made to the course itself between the time Hansen acquired it and the course was demolished, but Hansen improved its general conditioning and grooming, added a few sand traps, and re-contoured a few greens. Hansen entered ventures with Arnold Palmer's firm for the design of Commonwealth National Golf Club and Blue Bell Country Club. For a brief time, the Palmer group also managed golf operations at Oak Terrace, with no discernible impact.
Hansen thoroughly renovated the clubhouse (the former McKean carriage house) and several of the auxiliary buildings. Banquet and dining services were expanded and upgraded. Locker rooms were moved out of the carriage house to the large brick building immediately to the rear (once used as members’ apartments), where they remain today. During the 1980s the pro shop was moved several times within the clubhouse before being relocated to the building behind and to the left of the clubhouse (once the McKean’s “Butler’s and Coachman’s Cottage”), where it remains today. Hansen renovated the grill area and briefly offered elegant upscale public dining in Eileen's Restaurant (managed by Hansen's wife, Eileen) in the space currently designated the Governor's Room.
In 1988 the outdoor pool behind the manor house (unused since the mid-1960s) was filled in, paved over and converted to a parking lot. For a time, the open area below the manor house extending towards Welsh Road (once a polo field) was used as a golf practice range.
Struck by the historical connections at Oak Terrace and the tax advantages then available for preserving historic properties, Hansen commissioned George Thomas, a respected architectural historian and professor at the University of Pennsylvania to prepare and submit a request to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and its Bureau for Historic Preservation to certify the manor house as warranting placement on the National Register of Historic Places. According to Thomas, the manor house merited consideration as "an important and rare surviving example of a suburban Philadelphia turn of the century country seat that falls within a significant pattern of architectural patronage by the McKean family, and as the design of a major Philadelphia architect
Hansen planned to continue operating the Oak Terrace golf course while he assembled the properties and capital to build a spectacular new course on the site and concurrently develop an up-scale residential community alongside the new golf course. Thus, between March 1981 and March 1988, Hansen properties made six parcel purchases, which, when all were totaled, amounted to all of the land that the Archdiocese had purchased from Elsie Wingel and Marion van Steenwyk in 1969, amounting to 359.74 acres, for which Hansen paid the Archdiocese $6,724,000 (not counting the trade of the cemetery property), or $4,877,000 more than the property sold for in 1969, netting the Archdiocese a tidy return on their investment.
To fulfill his plan of building an entirely new championship caliber golf course, Hansen required a routing scheme for the new course, one that would take advantage of both the Wingel and van Steenwyk properties. To produce the routing plan Hansen commissioned Cornish and Silva golf course architects. Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva designed several New England courses, but they are best known for their redesign and renovations of Seminole (Florida), Olympia Fields (Chicago), and Broadmoor (Colorado) to ready them for major USGA competitions. The routing plan for the new course was developed in 1992 and credited to Dave Kavanaugh of Cornish and Silva. His plan proposed a links style course maximizing use of the available terrain, weaving golf holes through, over, and around the wetlands, bringing Park Creek into play, and cutting some holes through the heavily wooded lands on the former van Steenwyk properties.
Bud Hansen was privately esteemed among his peers for his ingenuity and vision. He eventually succeeded in other ventures, but Hansen never realized his plans for Oak Terrace. A casualty of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, Hansen’s ambitious plans for Oak Terrace collapsed when his credit evaporated at the same time the real estate market entered a steep downturn. Changes in federal regulations of the banking industry put Hansen in a double bind, as he not only owed a significant amount to a single bank (Mellon) which called his loans, but he also owned a troubled S&L in Hammonton, New Jersey. The FDIC took over the Hammonton S&L and one of his country clubs that Hansen pledged as collateral. Suddenly forced to liquidate, Hansen persuaded his creditors that he could yield more money through the selective sale of his assets than through bankruptcy. To meet the FDIC demands he sold off most of his holdings, including Oak Terrace Country Club and all the adjoining land he had acquired throughout the 1980s.
Dr. James Hilty
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).