History

1903 Clubhouse
1903 Clubhouse

“Tennis in Portland has at last awakened” proclaimed the Irvington Club’s first brochure over 100 years ago. At that time, one year after it was founded in 1898, the Irvington Club consisted of “one first class court at the end of the Irvington car line.” But members had big plans: to build “at least two more courts and . . . Club house accommodations with shower and bath and lockers.” The initiation fee had been set “at the very low sum of $2.50 with regular monthly dues of 25 cents per month.”

The Irvington Club has come a long way since those first tennis enthusiasts played on the one clay court which occupied donated land in the middle of the block between NE Tillamook and Hancock and 19th and 21st, in the heart of the Irvington neighborhood.

Back then, spectators observed the action from the club’s only building — a set of covered bleachers.

From its founding, the Irvington Club has always been member-owned. Soon, members decided to turn their club into the “tennis headquarters for the city.”

Walter Goss

Spearheaded by club president Walter Goss, they raised $10,000 in one year through donations and the sale of lifetime memberships, and bought half of a nearby city block at the club’s present location between NE Brazee and Thompson and 21st and 22nd, enough land on which to build six clay courts and a clubhouse. In February, 1905, The Oregonian described the club’s location in Irvington — at that time an attractive middle- to upper-middle class neighborhood — as being “the prettiest spot in the pretty suburb.”

The Club at Thompson
The Club at Thompson

When the courts opened in July of 1905, the Oregon Journal declared that “the universal verdict was that Irvington has the finest courts in the great Western world.” By September of that year, finishing touches had been put on the one-story clubhouse, which included a roof garden, 20 feet in width and extending the full length of the building — a most advantageous place to observe the courts. The six courts and clubhouse marked the opening of Portland’s first tennis-only club.

 

Stella Fording, Oregon State Women’s Singles Champion, 1911; Oregon State Women’s Doubles Champion, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1916.

In 1908 the club bought the north end of the block and turned it into a neighborhood playground. Four years later a two-story addition to the clubhouse, designed by Portland architect Ellis Lawrence, was constructed. Not only was the Irvington Club to be a center for tennis, it would serve the community as a country club as well.

 

CHRISTMAS DINNER DANCE INVITATION, The Irvington Club’s regular dinner dances continued well into the 1960s

Prospective members were invited to join a club that would “take a prominent part in the civic life of our city. All that pertains to good government, good streets, good citizenship, good morals, good homes, good men, good women, good boys and girls, should be fostered by our Club. This enterprise and all that it means for good is not for today but for all time.” These lofty goals included, of course, fostering good tennis.

 

In 1899, the Irvington Club sponsored the first Oregon State Tennis Tournament, held on two courts at Multnomah Field. Many of the Pacific Northwest’s best players from 1900 to the late 1970s came out of the Irvington Club, including Phil Neer, who was National Intercollegiate singles champion in 1921, Wayne Sabin and Elwood Cooke, both of whom played on the U.S. Davis Cup team and were ranked in the top ten players in the country in the late 1930s and ’40s, and Carolyn Lumber, ranked number one in the Pacific Northwest in 1975.

But when the rains came in the fall, tennis ended and the social life of the neighborhood moved inside, to Irvington’s clubhouse. Men’s speaking groups, women’s community groups, card parties, pool, ping pong, and dance classes all filled the clubhouse regularly. But what members loved most were the monthly dinner dances, held in the club’s large ballroom with its beautiful maple dance floor. Members brought their own “bottles” and danced late into the night to the tunes of live dance bands … by Sarah Thomas.

Managers Irvington Club Presidents Rob Powell (1980)
Mrs. Graham William K. Scott (1898) Andy Glass (1981-82)
Wes Hartman (1948-1950) D.D. Oliphant (1899) Henry Cuthbert (1983)
Hugh Findlay (1952, part time) Walter Goss (1905-06) Lee Shelton (1984)
Anne Lagler (1953-1959) J.S. Hamilton (1908) Steve Hall (1985)
John (Bud) Christenson (1959-?) L.J. Wentworth (1909-10) John Linde (1987)
Homer & Inez Hein (1963) W.F. Woodward (1911-16) Mike Weedall (1988-89)
Tom Denhardt (1966-1970) W.J. Hoffman (1917-18) Steve Boeh (1990)
Brian Parrott (1971-1974) Everett A. Johnson (1920-1921) Louise Anderson-Dana (1991)
Mary Crislip (1974-1988) F.C. Felter (1922) Vic Blumenthal (1992)
Betty Rankin (1988-1998) L.A. Liljequist (1927) El Lawrence (1993)
Lauri Taylor (1998-2001) C.C. Hockley (1930) Chris Thomas (1994)
Barbara Farmer (2001-Present) Walter A. Goss (1931-1935) Frank Halverson (1995)
Leslie J. Werschkul (1936) John Costa (1996)
Pros Walter A. Goss (1938) Jeff Wiles (1997)
Kurt Berndt (1930) Henry Cuthbert (1942-1945) Coleen Scissors/Ed Vranizan (1998)
Charley Lager Claude C. Hockley Jr. (1946-48) Carol Zosel (1999)
Hugh Findlay Wesley J. Hartman (1949) James Taylor (2000)
George Lyttleton-Rogers David McLaughlin (1950) Jerry Keefe (2001)
Ed Leonard Fred R. Fisher (1953-54) Phil Rothrock (2002-03)
Hedi Jackson Gordon Wayne (1955-56) Carolyn Young (2004)
Jose Corona Samuel Lee (1957-58) Jim Lang (2005)
Brian Parrott (1970-1974) Jay Coffey (1959) Gene Avery (2006)
Warren Farmer Clyde Knox (1960) Tom Scribner (2007)
Jack Neer (1974-1979) Mcnamara Pope (1961-62) Dave Hicks (2008)
Steve Kabota (1979-?) Jack Mills (1963) Bob Williams (2009)
Doug Rudhom (1982-1983) Larry York (1964) Tony Mendoza (2010)
Carolyn Lumber (1983-1999) Philip Jackson (1965) Dave Reynoldson (2011)
Mike Tammen (1999-2001) Brad Schade (1966-68) Blythe Knott (2012)
Adam Gagnon (2001-2008) Sam Norby (1969) Sarah Chung (2013)
Cristobal Valverde (2002-Present) Arthur Fish (1970) Mark McGinnis (2014)
Walter Seidel (2008-Present) Baylor Lowes (1971) Terry Folen (2015)
Ross Hughes (1972) Alysa Rose (2016)
Don Tisdale (1973)
Barbara Thompson (1974)
Mike Kohlhoff (1975)
Roy Tokerud (1976)
Dick Lang (1977)
Bill Yoder (1978)
Joel Krane (1979)