Thanks for Asking | Sep. 1, 2011

Our Local Jack-Of-All-Facts Tells You How It Is

Frank Smoot

I heard that Hillcrest Country Club Golf course was originally started by workers at Uniroyal. Management from Uniroyal did not want to golf with the workers, so the workers started their own club, Hillcrest. Is that correct, or what’s the story?

Thanks for asking! It’s only half true, as far as I know. (I wish it were all-true, because it would make an outstanding “power to the people” story. Instead, it’s only a pretty darned good “up-yours” story.)

Hillcrest was organized in 1925 on Independence Day (coincidence?), with Kurt Stubenvoll as president (chief chemist at “Gillette,” what Uniroyal was called at the time), and Harold Anderson as vice president (a clerk at Gillette). Directors were W.V. Jackson (of the Jackson Agency), F. Paul Kelley (of the Eau Claire Ice Company), Joseph Juel (of Northern States Power), Harry Johnson (of Johnson Printing), Marshall Johnson (of Johnson and Huleatt Clothiers), Howard Hutchins (the factory manager at Gillette), and M.B. Syverson (vice-president of Union National Bank).

Apparently, some among this gang – members of the Eau Claire Country Club – had invited guests from New York to a country-club function. The New Yorkers were thinking of buying the rubber plant, and the Eau Clairians wanted to wine and dine them. But the country club denied them the privilege of bringing their out-of-town guests.

Well. They got 100 people to each put up $100. They bought two Town of Washington farmsteads. They hired a laborer named Chet McCann to clear the land, grub out the stumps, and level the course. (He went on to serve as course superintendent for the next 44 years.) As far as I know, they never played golf at the country club again. While the course was being prepared, they played on leased land at Lake Hallie. (I wish I knew whether that turned into the Hallie course …) I think Hillcrest opened in 1927 and the clubhouse in 1929.

In 1976, in rededicating the clubhouse, Hillcrest issued Gold Life Membership cards to 23 people who had kept continuous memberships since 1925, including Madge Stubenvoll, Kurt’s widow.

What is the highest residential point in the City of Eau Claire? My old neighbor said it is the Royal Court area. Is that right?

If by “the Royal Court area” your neighbor means Royal Court near the top of Plank Street Hill (behind the ol’ Arnie’s Ski and Garden), then he’s not even close. Peak elevation there is about 906 feet above sea level, not even quite as high as Forest Hill (about 920), which is more-or-less across the street.

Ascending from Forest Hill, we have Mt. Simon at 948, then Mt. Washington at 1,001 in a tie with Mt. Agnes (where the radio tower stands between Skeels Ave. and Lehman St. at the east end of Putnam Heights). Next higher on the list is Moore’s Bluff, directly across from Mt. Simon but some 90 feet higher than Simon at 1,037. (I shouldn’t neglect to mention that just east of Moore’s Bluff stands Mt. Adin, which borders Garden Street just north of Truax Boulevard; Mt. Adin has a peak elevation of 991.) The city’s reigning champ is Abbe Hill at 1,102 feet, almost 200 feet higher than Royal Court.

The highest point in the county is just inside the Eau Claire-Jackson county line in the Town of Fairchild, just north of the Buffalo River State Trail for bicyclists, and near Highway RR for drivers (GPS: 44.59902, -91.02289). Bridge Creek and Travis Creek, two tributaries of the Eau Claire River, both rise there. It’s about 1,340 feet. That peak probably has a name, but I don’t know it

Got a local question? Send it (17 S. Barstow St.) or email it (mail@volumeone.org) and Frank will answer it!  Frank has lived in Eau Claire for most of the past 43 years. He is an editor and researcher at the Chippewa Valley Museum, which is open all year just beyond the Paul Bunyan Camp Museum in beautiful Carson Park. You should go there.