1999 ATP TOURNAMENT THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 1999 Oldest active club takes root
BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati was well ahead of most of the country in tennis' early years.
On Dec. 3, 1880, a meeting was organized by some of the city's first players. Officers were elected. A constitution was created.
One week later, the Cincinnati Tennis Club opened with 86 members -- perhaps almost all the people in the city who played the sport -- making it the eighth-oldest club in the country and second-oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains (behind the New Orleans Tennis Club). It may also have been the first indoor club in the United States, said Rowland Hopple, historian for the Cincinnati Tennis Club.
Its first home was the Horticultural Room in the south wing of Music Hall downtown. The building had opened just two years earlier.
In 1882, the roof of Music Hall's south wing was leaking and the tennis club wanted a rebate on the rent it was paying. Music Hall operators said no, so the club moved to the property of club officer Howard Winslow, who had laid out courts on his land at Oak Street and Reading Road.
"This was very informal and casual," Hopple said.
The club changed locations again in 1886, moving to what was then Arbigust Street, which later became Vernon Place. The Ohio state tournament was played there in 1891, the first major tourney held in the city.
Cincinnati Tennis Club moved to East Walnut Hills for good in 1890. By 1900, there were 30 private tennis clubs in the Greater Cincinnati area, mostly neighborhood clubs.
"Then it was recognized as a sport and people knew what you were talking about," Hopple said.
Between 1903 and 1968, the Tri-State Tennis Tournament was held 55 times at the Cincinnati Tennis Club, which also played host to the Western Tennis Championships in 1969-71 and a Davis Cup tie against Japan in 1952, the first and only official Davis Cup tie played in Cincinnati.
FUN FACT "Tennis Lane," near Bethesda Hospital in Avondale, was named in the late 1800s because of its proximity to the Cincinnati Tennis Club. The sign remains up today.
The tennis club, still private and still in existence, now has about 400 members -- though fewer than 225 still play, Hopple said.
It is the oldest active tennis club in the nation and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
A LOOK BACK...
Copyright 1999 The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.
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