The golf course at the Longue Vue Club was designed by a man who is sometimes forgotten, yet greatly recognized, as being one of the forefathers of golf in America.
Robert White, who the Club still honors through a yearly golf event, was commissioned to build the golf course by Longue Vue’s Board of Governors in April 1922. The course at Longue Vue is just one of the several courses he designed in his time here in the United States.
Robert White was born in 1874 in St. Andrew’s, Scotland and immigrated to the United States in 1894. Although he was not yet considered to be a golf course architect, White began laying out courses from the time he arrived in the United States. In these years, it would typically only take him one morning to walk the land, decide on nine tee locations, nine green locations, and give all other suggestions and recommendations for upkeep. The fee for these services was only $25.00. This vision and his knowledge of the game helped White to become a very prestigious course architect, although he never became as famous as an A.W. Tillinghast, Alister MacKenzie, or Donald Ross. It did, however, help him to excel in several areas outside of golf course architecture.
In 1902, Robert White helped found the Illinois Professional Golf Association, and was appointed their president. This society was only the second of its kind in the world, due to the fact that the British PGA was founded in 1901. When the United States PGA was founded in 1916, White was elected its president due to his close relationship to nearly a third of the pros in the United States, and he held the position until 1920. While greatly involved in furthering golf associations and course design, White also became very interested in transforming and maintaining the conditions of golf courses. To do this, Robert White spent winters attending classes at the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University with the focus on applying scientific principles to golf course maintenance. This was essential to the success of courses and the game in the United States due to the drastic differences in weather patterns and terrain. This was unique in that he was the first to utilize these agricultural methods to maintain grass rather than traditional crops.
Even with his focus on so many things, Robert White was the first to build a putting green on the White House lawn, one of the first designers and manufacturers of golf clubs in America, designer and builder of over one hundred golf courses, and responsible for bringing golf to the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Although Longue Vue’s course was designed by Robert White, A.W. Tillinghast made several recommendations to improve on the course’s original layout. Tillinghast’s suggestions can be noted in a letter that was sent by him to the PGA President on October 18, 1935, regarding Longue Vue’s concerns. The following excerpt is from that letter:
“As directed by your telegram, I left here on the afternoon of the 15th by train, arriving at New Haven the next morning. On the morning of the 15th, at the request of P.G.A member Will McKay, I inspected the course at Longue Vue (note corrected spelling of previous report) Club at Pittsburgh. I was accompanied by McKay, J.H. Baily (Chairman of the Green Committee) and W.H. Key (Greenskeeper). Their chief problem has been the first hole with a blind drive to a side hill fairway. I gave them full instructions for a rather extensive grading operation, which they requested.
Their next problem centered about the 10th and 11th holes, where a stiff climb to the former was most objectionable. I corrected this with a new site for the 9th green (a better one than originally) a new green for the shortened tenth and a new teeing ground for a shortened eleventh. In this manner the hill climb is eliminated completely.”
Tillinghast’s contributions left a lasting mark, and truly made Longue Vue’s course what it is today.
The Club’s unique design can be attributed to prominent architect Benno Janssen. Janssen’s trademark design style is evident throughout the Clubhouse with his use of multiple high pitched gables, slate roof, large groupings of rectangular windows, interesting chimney treatments, and intricately carved stone detail. The Longue Vue Club has honored Benno Janssen through the naming of it’s informal dining room, “The Janssen Room.” Janssen’s work can be found throughout the Pittsburgh area, both commercially and residentially. His work includes the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the former Masonic Temple in Oakland, the William Penn Hotel, the Mellon Institute, and Rolling Rock Club. Janssen is also renowned for more than three dozen homes in the Pittsburgh area, including La Tourelle, and The Ingersoll House, both in Fox Chapel.
Benno Janssen was born in 1874 in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied architecture at the University of Kansas, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Janssen began his architecture career in Boston, Massachusettes, but later, in 1902, traveled abroad to Paris, to continue his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Three years later he returned to the States and began work for the Pittsburgh architectural firm, Mac Clure and Spahr. After one year, in 1906, Janssen formed a partnership with Franklin Abbot, through the year 1918. Janssen’s final partnership was with William York Cocken, the firm that developed the plans for the Longue Vue Club.
Janssen and Cocken were commissioned to prepare the plans for the clubhouse, not to exceed $200,000. The plans were approved in 1922 with a final construction cost of $266,122. The building became in use in 1924 and totally complete in 1925. Janssen’s design was primarily based upon the English Norman vernacular, although the large chimneys flush with the gable walls are Georgian in origin; yet the deep casement windows imply a French rural vernacular style. Most striking is the clubhouse’s extraordinary stonework. The building is faced with thin gray-tan sandstone slabs laid in uniformly horizontal layers, between layers of mortar. The signature high pitched slate roof was the first of its kind to be seen in the region, but reappears at La Tourelle, Rolling Rock Stables, the Dravo House, and Elm Court.
Landscape architect Albert Taylor was hired to provide landscaping at Longue Vue Club. Cleveland-based but nationally recognized as the landscape architect of the Pentagon, Taylor was known for laying out equestrian trails, and equestrian trails were a key feature at Longue Vue prior to World War II. Taylor sent a young employee, Ralph Griswold, from his office to oversee the landscape construction at Longue Vue. Once here, Griswold made Pittsburgh his home and designed the landscaping plan for Point State Park, among many other noteworthy commissions. He also contributed to projects such as Chatham Village in Pittsburgh, and the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Gardens in Staunton, VA. Griswold consulted to the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission under the Civil Works Administration, and as a result was appointed as the superintendent of the Bureau of Pittsburgh.