Standing Room Only as Council Discusses Scotch Hills Country Club
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 • 7:38am
SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – It was standing room only for the regular Town Council Meeting Tuesday night, as residents turned out in record numbers to participate in the discussion of what is planned for Scotch Hills Country Club, formerly known as Shady Rest Country Club.
While there were several residents who came to the microphone to speak about Department of Public Works issues, the majority were there to support the preservation of the Scotch Hills Country Club in its capacity as the first country club to be owned by African Americans, and the fact that it hosted jazz and blues legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.
At the start of the meeting, Councilman Bo Vastine was chastised by council and audience members for implying he had been actively involved in previous meetings. Thereafter, there was an agreement that going forward all would be involved and everyone supported the concept of making sure that the Scotch Hills Country Club building would qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is not just an African American issue,” said Mayor Kevin Glover. “This is a national issue, and tomorrow night you will see an amazing video on the history of Shady Rest at 7:30 Wednesday at Scotch Hills Country Club.”
Jeffrey Sammons, professor of history at New York University, spoke at the meeting as a representative of the United States Golf Association.
“As a founding member of the committee on African American Golf History, I am dedicated to preserving historical sites as well as preserve the history in writing. We see this as an integral part of golf history in America and I want to work with you on achieving historical status,” Sammons said. “I was also an historical consultant to documentary that will be aired on Wednesday evening. This is not only a part of Scotch Plains history, it’s a part of America’s history.”
Glover agreed, pointing out that John Shippman, Jr. was the first U.S.-born golf pro, not just the first African American one. “He is a national treasure,” said Glover.
Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella summarized what had transpired in a previous meeting for the benefit of the audience. “The deterioration needs to be stopped and we need to develop a sound preservation plan," Gialanella said. "It’s just good common sense. Once we have it on the registry, it will be protected, not matter who is sitting on the council. We need to be focused on doing things in an orderly fashion and I do think that we are going to do great things for this building.”
Gialanella assured attendees at the sometimes heated meeting that any disagreements had to do with the order in which to take future steps, not whether or not it should be preserved.
There was concern that any repairs be undertaken in such a way that they would not hamper the move to get the club on the National Registry of Historic Buildings.
Tomorrow: Discussion on another spray park, the new radio station, and issues raised by residents.