The Country Club of Peoria (CCP) is one of the region’s finest clubs, and one of the oldest. Established in the late 1800s, the club was formed by a number of community leaders with a common cause of “[encouraging] athletic exercises, recreation and social enjoyment,” according to a 1991 article by L. Williams entitled “The Country Club of Peoria: The First Ninety-Five Years.” Since 1897, the club has afforded its members exactly that on its 27 acres in Peoria Heights, and the membership has been very appreciative.
To thank its loyal members, the Club recently hosted an Emeritus Dinner in honor of those who have supported it for 50 years or more. On April 25th, Executive Chef James Kremer prepared a meal for 35 guests, including members, spouses and widows. Those honored at the dinner have a combined total of 1,090 years of membership with the club. Special tributes were given to Mrs. Sally Page, who holds the longest membership (73 years), and Mrs. Imogene Belsley, who just celebrated her centennial birthday and has been a member for 66 years. According to CCP’s Tammy Pilman, the average Emeritus member has belonged to the Club for 57 years.
While this was the first event of its kind, said Pilman, “The Country Club of Peoria plans on making this an annual celebration to welcome new graduates into the ‘Hall of Fame’ as they reach 50 years of membership.” These are the people who, like those who came before them, keep the Club and its history alive.
While founded in 1897, the Country Club of Peoria used leased land until their first clubhouse could be designed, financed and built. Completed in 1904, it was a major accomplishment and a place where members and their guests could gather before or after a tennis match or round of golf. The facilities became so popular—it was the only golf course in Peoria at the time—that the Club began efforts to acquire enough property to expand its nine-hole course to 18, which it completed in 1915, causing a further rise in membership.
Then the First World War hit, and by 1917, so many members had gone off to fight for their country that the Club was forced to reduce activities, defer improvements, close during the winter months and raise yearly dues. When the war ended, activity picked up again, and 1919 saw the addition of 57 new members. Numerous repairs and improvements were made to the clubhouse, but, sadly, it was destroyed by fire the following year. An optimistic and diligent group, the Club’s board was able to raise the money for a new clubhouse and complete the project in just two years.
Not just home to golf lovers, the Country Club of Peoria has featured tennis courts since its inception and gained a swimming pool in 1930 at the demand of several members. These facilities, along with the clubhouse, have received significant upgrades and modifications through the years as the number of members and amount of traffic has increased.
The Country Club of Peoria averages about 300 members, who have made the club what it is today by serving on boards and committees and helping to plan the future. It’s up to current members to continue these long-standing traditions, and its Emeritus members are surely showing younger members the way. iBi