August 24, 2014 News Release:

Great Chebeague Golf Course Declared Eligible for National Register

Chebeague Island’s scenic nine-hole golf course, created in 1920 in the early heydays of golf in America, has been declared eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Only four of the more than 100 golf courses in Maine, and few in the nation are on the National Register, the prestigious list of what states and the federal government consider America’s most historic and beautiful places.

Chebeague is one of only three golf courses on Maine’s off-shore islands, one of the few designed by local residents and one of the fastest built golf courses on the East Coast.

It was conceived by two men picking blueberries in 1920 and was under construction a few weeks later. The first game, played less than two months after the blueberry walk, was a foursome playing on a new six-hole course laid out with a clothes line and stakes and hitting over eight cows in a leased pasture beside the Stone Wharf. Stakes were the first “tees” and stakes the first “holes.” No cows were hit, a stipulation of the farmer in leasing land to the new club.

Ten months later, on July 4, 1921, the Portland Press Herald reported that more than 125 golfers from Virginia to Canada had already come to play the new six-hole island golf course.

Early players also played around the tents of Native Americans, many pitched in the open pasture where Passamaquoddy and Presumscot tribes had summered on Chebeague (Island of Many Springs) for centuries. They were Chebeague’s first summer vacationers. The new club permitted the tents to remain on the fairways until the 1930s when they were moved to one side of the golf course. Passamaquoddy families continued to visit Chebeague and pitch tents on the edge of the golf course until the mid 1950s, selling hand-woven baskets to island visitors.  

Chebeague’s club house, a farm house built between 1790 and 1807, one of the island’s oldest buildings, is thought to be one of the oldest golf clubhouses in the nation.

In 1928 the links-style golf course on Chebeague, now expanded to nine holes, was called “one of the sportiest nine holes in New England” by the Portland Sun Telegram and Press Herald. Its signature 7th hole, with a tee on the Stone Wharf and a high green across an inlet of Casco Bay, already had been called “undoubtedly the finest water hole on the Atlantic Coast,” according to golf course designer Wayne Stiles, who created more than 60 golf courses on the East Coast, and gave free advice to Chebeague’s amateur golf course planners. It was also called one of the most beautiful nine-hole courses, with every hole overlooking the ocean.

Maine has 1,632 “listings” among the more than 85,000 national listings on the National Register. Listings include historic districts which may have numerous historic buildings in them.

The four Maine golf clubs already on the National Register are the private York Country Club, organized in 1900, the private Megunticook Golf Club in Rockport, organized in 1899, and two clubs open to the public: Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport and Poland Springs in Poland, both established in 1896.     

While most of America’s golf courses were created by professional golf course designers, Chebeague’s course was created by two summer residents on the island, letting the landscape of streams and gullies and the shoreline of Casco Bay dictate the course layout. Today it looks much as it did in the 1920s and 1930s, surrounded by 19th C. and early 20th C. houses, the 1920s Chebeague Island Inn and the historic granite Stone Wharf where Chebeague’s famous stone sloops docked. The stone sloops provided granite for the Washington Monument and many buildings in the Nation’s Capital.

After learning that the State of Maine had declared the Great Chebeague Golf Course eligible for the National Register, the golf club board of directors voted unanimously at its annual meeting Aug. 16 to apply for nomination to the Register. It has hired ttl, the Portland firm of architectural historians to prepare the National Register nomination forms. The ttl firm did the Eligibility Assessment Form for Maine’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Being on the National Register of Historic Places is a state and national honor. There would be no restrictions whatsoever on the golf course or the golf club.

For further information about the golf club and copies of the Maine National Register Eligibility Assessment form please contact Paul Hodge at a.p.hodge2@gmail.com or by calling 207-846-4819 or 540-554-8624.