Of all the classic American country clubs founded in the 1920s, Brookside Country Club of Allentown may be the only one to be conceived in a sporting goods store. Harold Witwer and Harold Jones owned and ran the store; and it was here, amid baseball bats, basketball backboards, football helmets, an assortment of hickory-shafted golf clubs, and inventively-dimpled golf balls, that the two of them came up with the notion that Allentown could use a second country club - one with a more relaxed, friendly focus. Soon there were so many interested in the project that the meetings had to be held in the Moose Hall, on North Tenth Street. And when the group learned that the Brookside Farm of the Singmaster estate was available for $12,500, C. L. McElyea immediately obtained an option on it by "issuing his personal check for ten dollars."

  History of Brookside  

The new club was organized in August 1929, and a total of 154 acres acquired. Oliver Havard described it as "... beautifully rolling ground with some fine natural hazards including a pretty little brook that winds down near the buildings and crosses the road." The primary sport would be golf, but there would also be tennis, swimming, quoits, and croquet.

The first board consisted of Oliver Havard, Charles Oakes, Robert Trinkley, Edwin Kohler, Nolan Benner, George Brooks, Zeke Witwer, Edwin Pidcock, Clarence Harman, Lyman Josephs, C. L. McElyea, David Williams, Lee Chestnut, and Claude Yost. Havard was named president; Oakes, vice president and treasurer; Trinkley, secretary; Kohler, solicitor.

Havard, an executive at one of the area’s largest companies, Portland Cement, was granted a leave of absence to guide the building of the course and the transformation of a barn into the clubhouse. Another prominent Allentownian, General Harry Trexler, who owned a large farm nearby, offered the use of his foreman, his farm machinery, and his farm labor to construct the 18-hole golf course free of charge, the only stipulation being a return of the machinery in suitable condition. Nor were volunteers lacking when the club’s construction committee issued a call (not without humor) to all members in early 1930:

Dear Members: ... Lots of volunteers are needed and we can use all, regardless of age, sex or previous conditions of servitude. Bring your tools, too. Shovel, rake, fork, hoe, hammer, axe, hatchet, pick, old broom, pail, wheelbarrow, steam shovel, or what you have. Come as early as you can Saturday and report for work to General Havard in the Field Office back of the barn. P.S. You may get your hands dirty, and it would be well to wear your old clothes. Second P.S. If it rains, come anyway, and you can husk corn inside the barn.

  History of Brookside  

Meanwhile, preliminary work was well underway on the golf course, which Frank Meehan had been commissioned to design. Preparing the land was a difficult task. Many tons of stones and rocks had to be removed. Havard devised a tool of spikes and hooks for digging that was found to be extremely useful by the 50 to 75 members who gathered to work on weekends.

On November 9, 1929, Allentown’s Mayor, Malcolm Gross, before a gathering of distinguished guests, used a gold niblick to take a divot that marked the start of course construction. A nine-hole course with sand greens was routed through the lower meadow and put into play six months later. On October 3, 1930, President Havard could tick off the club’s accomplishments, in large part due to the dedication and the physical effort of many members: the construction of an 18-hole golf course, the building of a swimming pool and tennis courts, the installation of a sewage disposal plant, the renovation of quarters to house the greenkeeper and the golf professional, the planting of 6,000 trees, as well as a number of lesser projects.  The original farmhouse (circa 1760) was converted into what may be "America's oldest halfway house."

  History of Brookside  

The converted barn on Brookside road that served as Brookside's original clubhouse was expanded over time to include dining room and banquet facilities. Brookside thrived, attracting business owners, physicians, business professionals and their families to the warm and welcoming environment. The golf course hosted major regional tournaments and pro-ams and became renowned as a shot maker's course with deceptively tricky greens. But as Brookside Road (which had to be crossed to reach the golf course) became busier and facility needs expanded, the membership decided to invest in a new clubhouse to be situated on the west side of the golf course. The Club purchased 200 acres of adjacent farmland and in 1989 the new 25,000 square foot clubhouse was dedicated. The complex featured what many considered to be the Lehigh Valley's best golf practice facility, an expansive new pool overlooking the golf course, pond and mountains and state of the art tennis facilities. Seasonal indoor tennis was soon added with the purchase of "the bubble." In 2010 the Club received a state grant through the Wildlands Conservancy for the restoration of the Swabia Creek which has resulted not only in the environmental preservation of the Club's waterways for the future but a dynamic restoration and enhancement of many of the most challenging holes on the golf course.

With the growth of the surrounding community and a continued commitment to being a true "members' club", where members continue the traditions of our founders with active engagement in all aspects of Club life, Brookside has continued to grow and prosper. The Club continues to be a "home away from home" for hundreds of families and new members who are building their own traditions, making new friends and truly enjoying this special place and its comfortable and cordial atmosphere of "elegance without pretense."


"When we build, let us build forever.
Let it not be for our present delight,
nor for present use alone.
Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for
...and that men will say as they look upon the labor
and the wrought substance of them
'See, this our fathers did for us'".

~ John Ruskin