When an 11-year-old Randy Cochran snuck into Salt Creek at night to pilfer lost golf balls at the private Elmhurst Country Club in Addison more than 50 years ago, he never imagined what it would lead to.
Making Personal Connections
The Land’s Historical Beginnings
At personal risk to his own status and life, Chief Black Partridge of the Potawatomi arrived in advance of the Winnebago and saved the family of trader John Kinzie, but the chief was unable to prevent the bloodshed that led to further conflict and left its scar on the land’s memory.
A New Chapter for the Land
While some of the course’s memories include the famous, most of the memories were much more personal to the community. Countless weddings, proms, holiday and themed dinners created numerous lasting memories for area residents. While Randy Cochran’s experience as a caddy led to his own unique journey, his story was one of many memories formed at ECC.
An Open Space Refuge
Some golfers enjoying the course as Elmhurst Country Club. (Photo courtesy of the DuPage County Historical Museum)
Forces of Nature
But nature saved its most shocking moment for 2009 when lightning struck the clubhouse and destroyed the magnificent structure. Both fire and water left its mark on the land and left the Forest Preserve District at a crossroads. The same bolt of lightning that burned down the clubhouse also sparked a movement to reinvent the concept and purpose of the clubhouse, course, and land.
Realizing its role as a precious oasis of greenspace in a developed suburban setting, the Forest Preserve District responded to the increasing pressures of urbanization by restoring natural features and reinventing the former golf course into a “golf preserve.”
The Rebirth Begins
Along with a name change to The Preserve at Oak Meadows, the property was reconfigured to reduce flooding in nearby communities by holding an additional 20 million gallons of stormwater from Salt Creek during flood events, while also minimizing flood damage to the course.
During the restoration, the waterways around the former 16th hole and island green were dried up, revealing a cache of lost golf balls. On a project site walk, one of these golf balls caught the eye of the course architect and was quickly identified as the “Sweet Shot,” which had been discovered and treasured by Randy Cochran as a boy and then lost during his furtive attempts to land shots on the island green. The memories of the past not only reside in hearts, but may also leave indelible imprints on the land.
A Reinvented Space to Build New Memories
Elements of the new clubhouse, called The Greenway Tap, include:
- Use of natural materials to help the clubhouse blend in with nature, including sustainably sourced Accoya wood
- Energy-efficient mechanical systems and LED lighting
- Landscaping around the building and patios features more than 3,500 native shrubs, trees, and perennials, including plants to support pollinators
- Environmentally friendly green roof of growing flora
- Installed solar arrays on the adjacent cart storage building to power the entire 75-cart electric fleet for the entire golf season
Open now to the public, the new clubhouse serves the same function as the old — a venue and hub for golf recreation activities — but also reflects its reinvention by focusing on educational programming, such as bird-watching and nature hikes, to serve as a gateway for new memories connecting individuals and communities with the natural world.
About Hidden History blogs
From glaciers to mounds, mammoths and farms, each month we highlight the often-overlooked history of our preserves and provide context to deepen your connection to the land, as well as tell the stories revealed to us through the objects and formations left behind. Stay tuned as members of the Forest Preserve District's collections committee bring you closer to your community through story every month.