Club Has Been Blessed with Energetic Presidents
Thoroughly in keeping with the character of the Peninsular Club over its 57 years’ history has been the caliber of leaders selected for the post of president. From the outset, to receive that designation has been particularly fortunate in having the invaluable services of a long list of outstanding men who have figured prominently in the business, industrial and social life of the city.
Edwin F. Uhl, the first president, was elected by the charter membership of 85 on October 26, 1881. Succeeding him at intervals of from one to eight years there have been 25 additional executives comprising a group which represents veritably the Who’s Who of their respective periods in this locally, leaders known not only locally but throughout the state and on a nation-wide scale, coming down finally to the present worthy incumbent, elected February 17, 1937, Joseph A. Hager.
Of the total number of 26 president, six past executives, in addition to the incumbent, remain alive and active and vital forces in furthering the progress of club and community. Eldest of these is Mark Norris, who joined the organization just one year after its organization, in 1882, and was elected president on February 16, 1904, to serve with distinction over a four-year period, to February 18, 1908. Others in this distinguished group are Gaius W. Perkins, Jr., Charles G. Watkins, Eber W. Irwin, John E. Frey and Louis DeLamarter.
Longest term of service was that contributed by John Duffy, who succeeded Mark Norris to the president’s chair on February 18, 1908, and continued to provide able service for a total of eight years, handing over the reins eventually to William M. Wurzburg on February 15, 1916. The average length of service in the position has been slightly over two years.
A complete list of presidents of the Peninsular Club, with dates of their election, follows:
Edwin F. Uhl…………………..October 26, 1881
George G. Briggs………………January 21, 1885
John L. Lawrence………………January 14, 1886
Amasa B. Watson………………January 15, 1887
F.A. Gorham……………………January 11, 1888
Charles W. Watkins…………….January 12, 1889
Willard Barnhart………………..January 17, 1891
William R. Shelby………………February 11,1896
John A. Covode…………………January 14, 1898
George H. Davidson…………….January 12, 1899
Charles M. Heald………………..April 11, 1899
Closson L. Lockwood…………..January 13, 1900
J.H.P. Hughart…………………..January 9, 1901
O.E. Brown……………………..January 15, 1903
Mark Norris……………………..February 16, 1904
John Duffy………………………February 18, 1908
William M. Wurzburg…………..February 15, 1916
Gaius W. Perkins, Jr…………….February 13, 1917
Charles G. Watkins……………..February 12, 1918
Eber W. Irwin………………..…February 11, 1919
Fred A. Wurzburg………………February 10, 1920
Henry J. Bennett…………………February 8, 1921
John E. Frey……………………..February 9, 1926
William A. Jack…………………February 24, 1932
Louis J. DeLamarter……………..March 1, 1935
Joseph A. Hager…………………February 17, 1937
Many have been the vicissitudes through which the Club has been guided by the steady hands of these leaders. Depressions, wars and threats of wars, reconstruction eras, prosperity, through them all the way has been charted so expertly that the continued progress of the organization has never been so much as remotely threatened.
Indeed, the PenClub and its pioneering founders and aggressive leaders down through the years have appeared to thrive upon adversity. Organized at a time when a nation was only just beginning to realize its actual possibilities in men and resources, in a town which was enjoying a lusty growth and laying the groundwork for the splendid city which it has now become, the Peninsular Club has moved steadily forward conquering every obstacle as it appeared.
"Hard times" and the attendant labor troubles which struck a damaging blow in the days of 1893 were looming on the horizon when one of the first major expansions was projected and carried through. On through United States participation in the Spanish-American and World Wars, the depression of 1907, post-war difficulties and the cataclysmic financial debacle of 1929, the Club has moved steadily forward gathering strength and adding to its record of accomplishment.
Now, when the country has been passing through the throes of a so-called "recession," leaders of the Peninsular Club have dared nobly and produced splendid results. Certainly it is a commentary upon the vision and practical ability of officers and directors from time of organization down to the present day that such a fine record of stability has been produced.
REMEMBER WHEN ?
. . . . Reviewing the Club’s History
Visualize, if you will, an early autumn evening in the year 1881, the date October 4 to be exact. A small group of men has assembled prosaicly enough on the back steps of the home of one of their number. It was just one of those casual meetings of mutual friends and there was little thought even on their part that anything momentous would develop from the conversation into which they frifted that evening.
But from just such small beginnings do ambitious projects sometimes spring, and the outgrowth of that particular meeting was the inception of the present Peninsular Club. According to the account of a reporter for the old Grand Rapids Chronicle, the group met "on the back steps of Thomas D. Gilbert’s residence," and present upon the historic occasion were Andries Brevier, A.G. Hodenpyl, John S. Lawrence and George W. Pantlind in addition to Mr. Gilbert himself.
Feeling that there was a definite place for such a social organization in the life of the growing city, they lost little time in moving to transform their idea from the dream stage into reality. A second meeting was proposed for the specific purpose of getting the machinery of organization in operation and the date was set for October 8, just four days later. In that short time the word was spread and there was an immediate response in enthusiastic interest which was forthcoming.
The small group was augmented appreciably at this second meeting, which had its outstanding tangible results in the election of Thomas J. O’Brien as temporary chairman and John S. Lawrence as temporary secretary. The first formal meeting followed on October 18, at which time a constitution and by-laws were adopted and the name Peninsular Club was chosen. Fairly launched upon its career then, the remaining steps necessary to organization followed in rapid succession.
At the second formal meeting, held in the circuit court room, on October 22, according to the newpaper report of the proceedings "eighty-five gentlemen became charter members of the new club," Edwin F. Uhl was elected as the first president of the club and the remaining officers chosen at that time were: George G. Briggs, vice president; John S. Lawrence, secretary, and Charles E. Olney.
Memebers of the initial board of directors, selected also at the October 22 meeting were Dudley H. Waters, Henry F. Walch, Julius Houseman, Wilder D. Stevens, Andries Brevier, L.H. Withey, in addition to the officers named. Only four days laped before the newly-chosen board of directors swung into action and arranged for the acquisition of the first club property. On October 26 they voted to lease the house built by Daniel Ball which was then known as the George B. Moorton house.
It was a structure of ample proportions well adapted to the needs of that time and was located at the corner of Ottawa Avenue and Pearl Street, occupying a part of the site of the present Waters-Klingman building. There was an elevation of some 30 feet at that point then, the Morton house being built upon the hill which was a few years later leveled to provide for expansion of commercial building. A commentary upon the vast change in rental values is found in the fact that the lease was signed for a two-year period at the rate of $800 a year.
Well within a month of the date of actual organization the membership had skyrocketed well past the 100 mark, with the addition of 38 additional members on November 15. The first annual meeting was held on January 10, 1882, and at that time John Morris of Chicago was engaged as steward at a salary of $75 a month. So rapid was the growth of the organization that within two years of its inception its needs had expanded beyond the facilities afforded by the Morton house and in 1883 the members decided to build a structure planned specifically for the club purpose.
Once more action followed swiftly upon the heels of necessity and subscriptions were collected and the subscribers given four per cent bonds issued against the property. L. H. Withey was made trustee for the stockholders and a site was purchased at the corner of Ottawa Avenue and Fountain Street, the location of the present structure, which replaced the original building in 1912. A housewarming party celebrating completion of the club’s first permanent home was held on February 25, 1884.
Continuing to grow by leap and bounds, the club once more found itself pressed for space as early as 1891 and it became necessary to add an annex adjoining the main building to the north on Ottawa Avenue. Growing pains were experienced again in 1912 and it was decided that the old building must be razed to make way for the present structure.
During the construction period, the club was housed in temporary quarters in the Keeler building. Continuing its expansion, the Peninsular Club in 1936 affiliated with Spring Lake Country Club to afford members of both clubs the benefits of year-round activities.
Ultimately, we have reached the most recent stage in the remarkable metamorphosis of an idea into a vital and vigorous force in the life of a community with the culmination of the modernizing project which has brought the club’s appointments to a point where they can stand the most favorable comparison with those of the finest organizations of the kind in the United States.
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 12 Decembery 2009