Saturday, November 25, 2017

Covington Country Club

Covington Country Club was one of the first modern subdivisions to attract New Orleans residents to the Northshore. Over the years, its clubhouse has been used by many area organizations for special events. Here is its history, reprinted from the Covington Country Club website:

Lounging around the pool at Covington Country Club

Covington Country Club was organized and incorporated in June 1954, by a group of local business men. It’s first president was Mr. A. R. Blossman, Sr. Mr. Blossman donated 85 acres of land on the east bank of the Tchefuncte river for the first nine hole golf course, tennis courts and club house. He also used his company’s equipment to build a 10,000 sq. ft. club house, pool, patio, and golf course. 

The club was the first country club on the north shore – also it was the first 9 hole golf course. 

How It Came To Be

In a recent interview, Frederick S. Ellis, one of the persons involved early on in the country club, shared his recollections about how it all got started. In the beginning, he said, the country club project was being formulated by a group of young folks, among them Billy Burns, Dolly Stroble, and Peggy Maginnis. 

"They got together and thought it would be a good idea to have a country club," Ellis recalled. "They started going around to various people and collecting $200 checks, trying to raise $30,000. When they had enough checks, that would prove there was enough interest in the project, and they would go back and try to get more people interested in writing even bigger checks for the proposed project."

"They agreed to hold the first batch of checks while more checks started coming in. So one day I am sitting in my law office and Billy Burns came in and said he needed my help. Others in the project had "run out of steam" and had stopped doing anything, even though they had $20,000 in checks."

"There were no actual plans at this point, they were just trying to collect a certain amount of money and then figure out what to do with it," Ellis said. "Between the two of us, we went out and raised the last $10,000. We put all those checks totaling $30,000 in the bank, and then I wrote up the charter and bylaws, and we had a meeting at Jim's On The Hill."

"Everybody came to the meeting, it was a great big meeting. I presided and we went through the charter and bylaws and approved them, with some minor additions. We elected officers, and Billy and I decided that we needed somebody to be president who had some standing in the community. So we decided on Fred Blossman, and even though he wasn't actually at the meeting, we elected him President. At first, he said no, but the following day he called back and said he had decided to go ahead and serve as President.

He had reviewed the idea and decided it had some potential. "So we went out and started looking in the north end the parish for $30 an acre land. The original plan was to find some cheap land somewhere, build a little club house, a pool,a golf course and a few tennis courts.Then a few days later Fred called and told us about a piece of land fronting on the Tchefuncte River near the Shushan property." Ellis was not familiar with the property, but it did seem like a good place to build a country club.

So the money had been collected without specific plans where the club would be built, and Blossman had come up with a good location for the club, but also with an eye towards building a residential subdivision between it and the highway. Blossman went ahead and bought it himself, and the rest of the group agreed with his plan. 

His subdivision idea took hold, and Blossman built Covington County Club Estates subdivision on the land he owned, and he gave the property to the country club organizers for the purposes of building the club and its amenities, according to Ellis.

"So that's what happened," he said.  "And it worked. All of this was before the causeway. People came in and started buying up lots, and then when the causeway was built, it really took off."

Ellis tells of a golf course designer from Scotland who showed up and convinced the group to let him design their golf course.  "He shows us a scrapbook of all the golf courses he had designed across the country. We had a meeting at Citizens Bank and heard this guy's pitch, and we hired him on the spot."

Then Bill Pitcher came in with an idea to get his friend Gus Perez to design the country club building for free.

The country club became a really great community resource in those days, Ellis said, and everybody was invited to take part. The country club building has served scores of community service clubs as their meeting place, with a long list of weddings, receptions, reunions, business groups, and other special events on its calendar through the years.

Ellis stayed active with the country club for "a long time," serving as secretary, treasurer, but never as president. 

The drawing above was on the dinner menu of Covington Country Club in the late 60s.

  The club was an instant success and over the next 15 years the club house was doubled in size, a cabana, tennis club house, four new tennis courts, 60 acres of land and an additional 9 holes of golf, were added. 

According to a 2015 Facebook post by Joanie Johnston, the daytime "specials" for December 30, 1969 included:

Broiled T-Bone Steak with Chive Sauce - - - - - $2.00
Baked filet of Redfish with Creole Sauce- - - - - $1.90

And the "Golfer's Special" of One Half Dozen Fried Oysters with French Fries was $1.50.

Items available from the menu included a baked potato and sour cream or butter, tossed green salad, and tea or coffee. The choices and prices went like this:

Pontchartrain Soft Shell Crabs - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- $3.95
Filet of Trout, Sauteed Meuniere or Amandine - - - - $3.75
Jumbo Frog Legs with Hush Puppies - - - - - - - - - - - $4.25
Breaded Veal Cutlet with Green Peas - - - - - - - - - -- $3.50
Finest USDA Choice Ribeye, broiled to perfection - - $4.95

A dessert of Ice Cream or Sherbert went for 35¢, and a Creme de Menthe Parfait went for 75¢

The club house has been the setting for over 3,000 wedding, birthday parties, class reunions, and other social events. It has been the social center for west St. Tammany Parish, for the past 50 years. 

Photos from 2023


From the Covington Country Club archives: "The River Call" cutline for the photo reads, "Trophy Night" provided these smiling winners with their prizes for having won various golfing events throughout the year. They are: Standing left to right: Gary McCreary, George Constan, Bob Johnston, Bill Rase, Malcolm White and Andy Holcomb. Seated are: Messrs. Meredith Berry, Lloyd Richards, Meredith (Buster) Lyon, Tommy Loup, Carl Johnson and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Hazel Ogden) 

On November 21, 2003, the club was purchased by Dick Blossman, (son of the founder) and his wife Lynn. Under their ownership the clubhouse and golf course has been under major renovations, including a total face lift, new furniture, new equipment, new golf carts, new irrigation system and a fresh team of workers, who love to be part of the reborn resort/country club. The business plan is to be the best on the north shore. 

The view of the river from the swimming pool deck

Drone aerial video footage by Brad Ferrand