one of the first African American country clubs in the United States
The Club was run on dues and memberships. Promotional advertisements were placed in local African American newspapers. These ads provide insight into the facilities, activities, and amenities of the Club.
The Clubhouse was a large wooden structure near the bank of the Big Walnut Creek, approximately where a small gazebo sits today. Some folks remember cottages and cabins further south, which served as summer residences on the grounds.
Inside the Clubhouse was a restaurant and bar. Local residents fondly remember Ernest Tate, who managed the Club in the 1950s.
Some community members remembered a fence around the Club with an entrance gate at the end of Oklahoma Avenue. They remember parades of fancy cars streaming in and out of Gahanna during the Club’s operation. To not create disruption or disturb the neighbors, club owners put a sign up that said “Quiet, No Honking.”
The clubs downtown were “white only”, so folks came from Columbus to Gahanna for after hour celebrations. There may have been a place that sold wine and spirits called The Vineyard if you traveled on Johnstown Road to Gahanna, crossed the old iron bridge, and turned right off Granville Street.
ATLETIC SPORTS EXPERIENCE
The Big Walnut Country Club provided space and opportunity for athletic sports and physical recreation.
A variety of sports including baseball, croquet, horseshoes, softball, badminton, and volleyball were shown being played in advertisements, pictures of festivals, and articles over the years.
Golf was an important part of the Club experience. At different times, there was a driving range and a 5-hole golf course.
Specials Occasions were celebrated at the Club. After a gala, high school forma, a wedding, or honeymoon, it was a place to continue the celebration.
Prominent author, Wil Haygood, wrote a book called The Haygoods of Columbus: A Family Memoir about his family's history growing up in the Mt. Vernon Avenue area of downtown Columbus. On page 102, he recalls the marriage of his parents in 1952: "That evening -- the weather was beautiful, my parents remember -- Jack took his new bride out to Gahanna, a small town northeast of Columbus. You had to take a winding two lane road to get there, past farmland and strangers and thick trees. There was a little place in Gahanna for blacks called the Big Walnut Country Club. They had a place out there where you could sit under trees and they'd serve you, - recalls my father."
Music & songs drifted for blocks on lively summer nights from the Club throughout Gahanna. Bands, dances, festivals, and the jukebox provided entertainment at the Club.
The Bathing Beauty Pageant contest and dance was one of the most prominent events in the Club. For many years The Ohio State News sponsored the Bathing Beauty Pageant at different locations including the Lincoln Ballroom and the Valley Dale ballroom. In 1952, 1953, and 1954, the beauty pageant grew into a day-long summer festival held at the Big Walnut Country Club.
It's believed that after the Club ceased operation, the African-American
community events moved to new locations to be hosted in Gahanna.
take E. Johnstown Road (US-62) and turn onto Clotts Road
heading east on Havens Corners Road, turn onto Dixon Road and follow for about a mile
located at 409 E. Johnstown Road (US-62)
If you have any memories about the Big Walnut County Club to share, or know anyone who does, please contact us and let us know.