CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Six years shy of its 100th anniversary, the Great Chebeague Golf Course could soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The nine-hole golf course was recently declared eligible for nomination to the register by the Maine Historic Preservation Committee. The golf club board of directors on Aug. 16 unanimously voted to apply for nomination.
Club and board member Paul Hodge has been instrumental in putting together the application for nomination. He said the golf course would be a good addition to the list of historic places because little has changed about it over the years.
“It’s virtually the same as it was in the 1920s and ’30s,” Hodge said. “There aren’t many golf clubs in Maine that can say that.”
There are many things other clubs can’t say that the Great Chebeague Golf Course can. The course was created by two Chebeague residents, George P. Spalding and Bertrand R.T. Collins, and was built in two months. Hodge said it isn’t a designer course and wasn’t built by architects, as many are.
“No golf course has been built that quickly,” Hodge said. “But it’s a people’s golf course.”
The course, originally built with six holes, required golfers to play around cows and Native American tepees. It has now expanded to 40 acres, with some holes on the original course and others across the road in front of the Chebeague Island Inn.
According to Hodge, there are approximately 200 club members, and about half are women. He said women have been allowed in the club since its founding, which is another one of its unique features.
Eldon Mayer, grandson of one of the course’s founders, is also a member. Mayer, a permanent Chebeague Island resident, is a descendant of Collins and says he grew up playing golf on his grandfather’s course. Mayer said he is very happy about the course’s eligibility.
“It’s very exciting,” Mayer said. “We’re very pleased that it looks like it might happen.”
Mayer, who has read the original papers outlining the plans and ideas for the course, said he’s sure his grandfather would be excited, too.
“I think he’d be very pleased,” Mayer said. “I think he’d be very proud, but in his day I don’t think he could have imagined it.”
Another aspect contributing to the historic nature of the course is its clubhouse. Sitting at the top of the course, the building was originally a farm house, which according to Hodge was built sometime between 1790 and 1807. It is one of Chebeague’s oldest buildings and is one of the oldest golf clubhouses in the country.
With a wrap-around porch, the clubhouse offers a wide view of the course and the ocean. The inside of the building is full of original features, such as narrow staircases, exposed beams and an old brick chimney.
“The building has been authentically kept in its original condition,” Mayer said.
The Great Chebeague Golf Course is one of three golf courses on an island off the coast of Maine; of the more than 100 golf courses in Maine, only four are on the National Register. Maine has 1,632 places on the register, which has a national total of 85,000 listings.
The next step the club is taking to be placed on the National Register is to complete the nomination forms. The club has hired ttl-Architects, a Portland based architectural historian firm, to help complete the papers. The firm also helped with the eligibility forms.
Once the nomination forms are completed, the Maine Historic Preservation Committee will present it to the State Review Board in January. Hodge said he expects the review board to accept the nomination and if so, send it to the National Register of Historic Places.
Hodge said the national register usually makes a decision within a few months of receiving a nomination from a state review board. He said the club expects to hear if it will be placed on the register by spring 2015.
Along with the honor of being placed on the National Register, there other benefits that come with being on the list. Owners of listed properties are eligible for tax provisions of 20 percent for the rehabilitation of historic structures. Those on the list also qualify for federal grants for historic preservation, and have their concerns taken into consideration in federally assisted projects.
Hodge said he thinks the club and course should be accepted because playing golf there feels like going back in history.
“This is like going back and playing golf almost 100 years ago,” Hodge said.
The clubhouse at the Great Chebeague Golf Course is believed to be one of the oldest in the country.
Jeff White tees off at a hole overlooking the ocean on Friday, Sept. 5, when he and three friends met for a round of golf at Great Chebeague Golf Course.