The history of The Field Club should be divided into two parts:
There was, of course, the organization of the Club itself in 1957 by a group of resolute and devoted men and women who envisioned the kind of club this has become. But thirty years prior to that formal founding, there was Mr. Stanley Field, whose mansion became the clubhouse, and owing to circumstances, which will be described, actually made The Field Club possible. For, if there had been no Stanley Field, there would have been no Field Club.
Who was Stanley Field?
Stanley Field was the son of Joseph Field, a brother of Marshall Field, one of the most eminent financial and civic leaders of Chicago at the turn of the century. Joseph Field, the father of Stanley Field, directed the European operations of far flung Marshall Field & Company from headquarters in London. Stanley Field spent his youth in England and received his early education in English schools. Later, after his schooling was completed, Stanley Field became associated with the vast Field interests in Chicago. Mr. Marshall Field, sensing the special talents possessed by his nephew, came to rely increasingly on him. Following the death of Marshall Field II in November 1905, Stanley Field became an indispensable factor in the organization. And, with the passing away of Marshall Field himself in January 1906, Stanley came to represent all that “Field” stands for in the community, in the country, and in the world.
Why did Stanley Field build this glorious house in Sarasota?
To answer this question it is necessary to turn for a moment to another of Chicago’s famous families, the Potter Palmers.
Some time prior to the First World War, Mrs. Palmer, Sr., had become interested in the West Coast of Florida and had made extensive purchases of land in the Sarasota-Osprey areas. She had built a large plantation house near Osprey, and she and her family spent holidays there until the United States became involved in the conflict.
Mr. Honore Palmer, eldest son of the Potter Palmers, apparently shared his mother’s affection for this area, and sometime after his marriage to one of Mrs. Stanley Field’s sisters, he built a residence here. Mrs. Stanley Field, a frequent visitor to the Honore Palmer estate, also became enchanted by Sarasota and persuaded her husband to purchase property nearby for a winter home.
Thus it was that Wealaka, the Indian name for Laughing Waters, was selected by Stanley Fields. Laughing Waters ultimately became The Field Club. And, naturally, David Adler, Chicago’s most eminent architect, was selected by the Fields to design the mansion. Construction began in 1925 and continued for two years.
Reflecting both, the style of Mr. Adler and the taste of Mr. and Mrs. Field, the house presented roughly the same appearance from the outside, upon completion, as it does today. Obviously, there have been significant additions, such as the present kitchen wing, but the effect largely is the same. The interior, however, is vastly different. Preparation of public rooms necessitated widespread alterations and, as the result of two major operations, The Field Club indoors now bears little resemblance to the Field mansion of yesteryear. Likewise, the gardens have undergone exhaustive revision. The gardens in the days of Mr. and Mrs. Field’s occupancy were exquisitely cultivated and presented “vistas” from many points of vantage. Mrs. Field was a dedicated gardener and she took enormous pride in the development of the area.
Without dwelling too long on the contrasts, it may be of interest to note the reversal in the Grand Allees, which framed the entrances. Originally, there were avenues of gracious calamondin, which led to what was at first the main entrance, but which is now the back of the Club and magnificent Royal Palms, which still remain at the then family’s private rear doors, which comprise today’s principal entrance.
In 1957, Mr. Stanley Field was determined to dispose of the Winter Home in Sarasota. He authorized Mr. John McCulley, a local realtor, to conduct negotiations for the disposal of the property. Mr. McCulley was instructed to offer the property for $175,000 “to any Club, which would use it for Club purposes.” This restriction is significant when it is pointed out that the property possessed market value far in excess of the amount stipulated if it had been made available for commercial sub-division. Mr. Field, however, adhered to his definite requirement that his house, garden, and acreage be offered intact “to a Club.” And the first offering was made to The Sarasota Yacht Club. The Sarasota Yacht Club did not accept the offer of the Field property.
Immediately, several Yacht Club members, who had been considering organizing a “family club” assembled a group of friends, who had expressed a similar interest and initiated active discussion of Stanley Field’s offer. A meeting of about 25 men was convened at the Old Plaza Restaurant early in June 1957 to discuss the formation of a new club and the purchase of the Field property. Supported by Messrs. John Rutledge, Russell Bray, and Ray Littrell, who later advanced the earnest money for the actual purchase of the property, sufficient evidence of interest was considered to have been shown to merit the summoning of an official Organization Meeting, and accordingly such a meeting was set for Thursday, June 13, 1957 at 7:30 p.m. in the M&M Cafeteria.
Approximately one hundred persons were in attendance at this Organization Meeting, which convened on Thursday, June 13, 1957 at 7:30 p.m. Mr. A. O. Anderson was elected Chairman of the meeting. Mr. Emmet Addy was elected Secretary of the meeting. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Addy reviewed the circumstances leading to the convening of this meeting, including a resume of the essential financial forecast:
|Cost of Field property||$175,000|
|Cost of remodeling program||$ 75,000|
|Funds on hand and “in the kitty”||$150,000|
|Funds to be made available by three banks in Sarasota “on a one-year mortgage loan”||$50,000 to $75,000|
After which, “It was felt the Club would be in a position to carry on...”
Following full discussion, it was decided the Board of Directors should consist of 15 members. The election of such Directors was declared to be in order and ballots were distributed to those present. From 23 nominees, the following 15 men were chosen for the terms indicated:
3-Year Term: Addy, Anderson, Sears, Walpole, Watson
2-Year Term: Hersey, Williams, Dort, Brown, Rutledge
1-Year Term: Bray, Littrell, Rice, Palmer, Wiener
The next order of business was declared to be the selection of a name for the Club. A show of hands revealed those desiring "Field Club" far outnumbered those desiring other names, and it was therefore the sense of the meeting that the Charter be taken out in the name of the "Field Club." If so desired, for various reasons, the name "Field Country Club" could be used temporarily.
At the first Directors' Meeting, held July 1, 1957, the following Officers were elected to serve as the first slate of The Field Club
|Vice President:||T.T. Watson|
|Secretary:||Charles R. Walpole (Res 7/11/57 succeeded by F.W. Rice 7/11/57)|
Thereafter, progress was swift and sure at the new club.
At the Directors’ Meeting held July 11, 1957, it was reported that all arrangements had been made for completing the purchase of the Stanley Field property and that the closing had been set for July 15, 1957. Committee Chairmen were appointed and a Membership Drive was approved.
At the Directors’ Meeting held July 22, 1957, it was reported that the purchase of the Field property had been consummated on July 16, 1957. The Building Committee reported the hiring of Messrs. Ralph and William Zimmerman, Architects. The architects’ comprehensive plan for revamping the “campus and house” was “wholeheartedly approved.” A resolution was passed authorizing the architects to apply for a building permit “as soon as possible.” The Membership Chairman reported that the membership stood at 166.
Thus was The Field Club organized, housed, and financed. Its affairs, as Mr. Stanley Field would have said, were “in order.”