The history of our club parallels the history of tennis in America. Cincinnati Tennis Club was founded in 1880, just five years after tennis was introduced in America. It is the second oldest tennis club west of the Allegheny Mountains and is among the ten oldest clubs in the United States.
Stewart Shillito, the son of John Shillito and founder of The John Shillito Company, saw tennis being played in the East. In 1878, he decided to build a court at his father’s home at the corner of Highland Avenue and Oak Street in Mt. Auburn. After the first court was built, interest spread rapidly among enthusiastic friends of Shillito. By 1880, Cincinnati was ready for a tennis club.
CINCINNATI TENNIS CLUB BEGINS
On December 3, 1880, Edmund H. Pendleton presided over a meeting held at the Burnet House. The purpose of the meeting was the organization of a tennis club. They drafted a constitution and nominated and elected the following officers: President – Jeptha Garrand; Secretary – Howard S. Winslow; and Treasurer – Albert C. Barney.
CINCINNATI TENNIS CLUB'S FIRST LOCATION
In one week, 86 players were enrolled as members, and the south wing of Music Hall was leased for indoor play until May 1881. This tennis was among the earliest indoor play in America. They renewed the lease on Music Hall for an additional year, and then decided to terminate the agreement. This ended the era of nineteenth century indoor tennis in Cincinnati.
THE CLUB MOVES TO TENNIS LANE
At the time, one of the officers of the Club, Howard S. Winslow, lived at the corner of Oak Street and Reading Road. His father generously made sufficient ground available to lay three grass courts at the rear of his property, which was adjacent to a lane. Seeing growing tennis activity, the city fathers named the lane Tennis Lane. It continues to bear that name today.
Cincinnati Tennis Club remained at that location through 1885, when it moved to a new location at Arbigust Street (now called Vernon Place).
THE CLUB MOVES TO VERNON PLACE
For the next 13 years, the Club occupied two different locations on Vernon Place. During these years, the Club grew in terms of membership and activity, and in two of the three years, 1891 and 1893, the Club sponsored the Ohio State Tournament. Having moved twice in 13 years, the club began looking in 1898 for a more permanent address.
CINCINNATI TENNIS CLUB FINDS ITS HOME AT 1880 DEXTER AVENUE
Among the members of CTC were John B. Keys and John Scarborough. Each owned tracts of land which they were interested in developing into a subdivision. They each hoped to do the Club a favor and, at the same time, enhance the value of their holdings by encouraging the Club to locate on their property. John Keys offered a gift of three acres of land on Bedford Avenue, but that location was considered too far out in the country and somewhat inaccessible. John Scarborough offered the Club what is substantially our present location, not as a gift, but rent-free for the first few years. Mr. Scarborough agreed to lay out four courts and build a club house at his own expense. Scarborough’s offer was accepted in the spring of 1899. When the courts were opened, thirty-eight members from Vernon Place, along with many new members, brought the membership to 186.
THE COURTS AND CLUB HOUSE
The first year at the new location, there were four courts, the present 1, 2, 9 and 10. In 1904, three courts were added to the upper tier, the present 6, 7 and 8. In 1925, three more courts were added to the lower tier, courts 3, 4 and 5. The original club house was torn down in 1905 and replaced with the present structure in 1906
PAST TOURNAMENTS AND USTA NATIONAL FATHER SON CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIPS
With the exception of approximately 10 years between 1903 and 1968, the Club hosted the popular and well known Tri-State Tennis Tournament. This event, for both men and women, attracted many of the best players in the country. In its early and middle years, it was one of the major events on the major national tennis schedule. In 1904, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, “Such a number of noted tennis players from cities throughout the United States has been entered that the Tri-State Tournament ranks very high, being surpassed in importance only by the National Lawn Tennis Association Tournament at Newport, R.I."Many great players participated in the tournament. Its list of winners reads like a “Who’s Who’” of tennis – Nat Emerson, Beals Wright, Bill Tilden, George Lott, Bobby Riggs, Frank Parker, Bill Talbert, Tony Trabert, May Sutton, Alice Marble, Pauline Betz, Dorothy Bundy, to name just a few.
Throughout this long period, the Club continued to bring world class players and teams to Cincinnati, including a Davis Cup tie in 1952, the first ever to be played here. All this activity did much to further the interest in tennis in Cincinnati and the Ohio Valley area.
TENNIS MASTERS SERIES – CINCINNATI, NOW KNOWN AS WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN
The Tri - State Tournament was last played in 1968. The Western Tournament followed at the Club as an open tournament from 1969 through 1971. In 1972, it moved to the Queen City Racquet Club, where it was held for two years before it moved to the Cincinnati Convention Center. In 1975, it moved to Coney Island, where it was played for several years. It then moved to its present site at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. Today the tournament, known as the Western & Southern Open, is one of the world’s premier tennis events and brings many of the world’s greatest players to Cincinnati each summer.
USTA NATIONAL FATHER & SON CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cincinnati Tennis Club has had the distinction, since 1974, of hosting the USTA National Father & Son Clay Court Championships. The USTA sanctions four national events in the Father & Son division: Cincinnati hosts the clay court tournament, Boston hosts the grass court tournament, La Jolla hosts the hard court championships and Cherry Hill, NJ hosts the indoor championships. While the tournament has the look and feel of the professional circuit, the players are amateurs. In 2017, Michael and Alex Wesbrooks of Louisville, KY defended their 2016 title. Members and their guests are invited and encouraged to attend this event, which is free and open to the public and will be held July 20th-22nd.
In addition to numerous outstanding players, Cincinnati Tennis Club has had many distinguished and prominent citizens in its membership. To name a few, William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Potter Stewart, Justice of the Supreme Court; and Neil McElroy, Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower Administration and President and Chairman of the Procter & Gamble Company. Too numerous to mention are other leaders in the business, medical, legal and teaching professions.
NAT EMERSON AND TONY TRABERT
The Club has had a number of nationally ranked players, the first being Nat Emerson, who won the Tri-State Tournament when it was first played in 1899 and was a finalist several times afterward. He was ranked No. 7 in Mens Singles by the USTA in 1908. Reuben A. Holden, Jr. was another nationally prominent player in the early years. He won the National Intercollegiate Singles Championship in 1910 while a student at Yale University. Tony Trabert won the same title in 1951 as a student at the University of Cincinnati.
Tony Trabert was one of the most prominent players in the modern history of tennis. He was a member of the US Davis Cup team from 1951 to 1955, and he was a captain in 1953 and from 1976 - 1980. Trabert's record in 1955 was one of the greatest ever achieved by an American player. He won the three most prestigious amateur tournaments, the French, Wimbledon and American Championships, on his way to being ranked number one among amateurs for that year. Only Don Budge, Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal have achieved the same feat. He was ranked number one by the USTA in both singles and doubles. Tony was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1970; Court 2 at the Club is dedicated to this honor.
J. HOWARD "BUMPY" FRAZER
Many of our members have served or are serving as committee and officers of district and association organizations of the USTA. In 2006, Bumpy was the fifth recipient and the first American to be given the International Tennis Hall of Fame's Golden Achievement Award, which is the highest honor accorded a non-player and recognizes contributions to tennis in the fields of administration, promotion and education. He served in various capacities for the USTA since 1970, including as president from 1993 to 1994, the first Cincinnatian ever to direct the national organization. Bumpy is also a former vice president of the International Tennis Federation. One of Bumpy's greatest contributions was overseeing the construction of the $300 million Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open during his ten-year tenure on the USTA Board of Directors.
JAMES L. FARLEY
Currently, Jim Farley is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and he has also made significant contributions to the Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association, Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame and the USTA/Midwest Committees.