ALBANY TENNIS CLUB HISTORY
The Albany Tennis Club can trace its origins to 1878. In that year, a building was erected on the southeast corner of Swan and Jay Streets in the City of Albany. The Albany Club, as it was then called, had two indoor courts accompanied by considerable gymnastic apparatus. An outdoor court was added in the spring of 1883.
The Albany Club was one of the earliest tennis facilities in the United States, and in fact predates by two years the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame (then called the Newport Casino) as well as the first golf club in the United States. It was also one of the original five founding member clubs of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA, which we now know as the United States Tennis Association (USTA), owner of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, one of the sport’s four grand slam events. General Robert Shaw Oliver, a prominent Albanian, was the Albany Club’s first president. Historical documents reveal General Oliver was a man of considerable fame and social standing, attending President Grant’s funeral and Chester Arthur’s daughter’s wedding, and later serving as Under Secretary of War (1903 – 1913) under presidents McKinley, T. Roosevelt and Taft. In 1878, General Oliver was elected the first President of the USLTA. (As legend has it, the competition for prominence between the N.Y.C. and Philadelphia clubs was intense; General Oliver presented a consensus option that the others could live with).
In 1912 or 1913, all operations of the Albany Club were transferred to the YMCA, which had acquired the property on Swan and Jay streets. Meanwhile, the independent Ridgefield Athletic Club, which was incorporated in 1884, was the original owner of the present site of the ATC, Ridgefield Park on Partridge Street in Albany. In 1912, the Ridgefield Club sold the property to the YMCA. A large two-story Victorian style clubhouse sat alongside the courts where the locker rooms and the City of Albany park maintenance building are now situated.
Little documented history has been found about the operations from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Bill Tilden, one of America’s most famous players, visited the courts in the 1930’s and the YMCA hosted prestigious tournaments throughout the years they operated the facility. In the late 1940’s, a subgroup of Ridgefield YMCA members formed the Albany Tennis Association to promote tennis and related social events. Annual dinner dances were held at Jack’s Restaurant in downtown Albany.
The YMCA operated the eight clay courts until 1968 when Ridgefield Park was acquired by the City of Albany. At that time there was concern that the City would choose not to assume the considerable expense of maintaining the clay courts, and either convert them to hard courts or eliminate them altogether. As an alternative, the members received approval from Mayor Erastus Corning III to form The Ridgefield Tennis Association and assume responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the courts. The effort was financed by assessing annual dues from Association members; in essence, the members voluntarily charged themselves a fee which was dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the facility. On October 1, 1973 The Ridgefield Tennis Association incorporated as The Albany Tennis Club, and has continued operating the courts in the same manner since.
The ATC’s premier event is the USTA-sanctioned Tri-County Open tournament which has been held continuously for more than a hundred years. The tournament is traditionally played over the Labor Day weekend and offers a large slate of draws in many categories. Participants come from not just the Capital District but as far away as Long Island, New York City, New Jersey and Montreal to play on the clay courts and to improve their USTA rankings.
The picture above was taken around 1960. The people are, from left to right, Jim O’Rourke, Nick Econome, Roger Heilman and Frank Collins. The photo was taken on court one and the old YMCA clubhouse is in the background.
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"Albany Tennis Club" is a 501(c)7 non-profit organization. Po Box 3052, Albany, NY 12203