Winchester tennis history

Possibly Winchester’s first formal sports club, the Myopia Club began with with a group of boys who used to play together around Wedge Pond where they could go boating and where they built a tennis court during the 1870s. When they took up baseball, they took on a name. Since they were all short-sighted, they chose the name Myopia.

The club acquired a clubhouse on what came to be known as Myopia Hill, built by a member’s father-in-law. Adjacent to it were stables, tennis courts, a shooting box, and acres of woodland.

When the club incorporated in the fall of 1879, its stated purpose was “for encouraging athletic exercise and yachting and establishing and maintaining a place for the use of a reading room and for social gatherings.”

In 1882 more members were interested in hunting than in playing ball and changed the name of the club to the Myopia Fox Hounds. In 1883, after just four years on the hill, the club gave up the hillside house and grounds and moved to other grounds. When the Brookline Country Club, generally known as the oldest county club in the country, formed in 1882, its members included a number of Myopians. While maintaining a separate existence, for years the Myopia Club had close relations with the Brookline Country Club, hunting from there. As parent to the Brookline Country Club, it is therefore justifiable to call the Myopia Club in Winchester the first country club, though the club in Brookline was first to take the name. [Read more: Myopia]

TENNIS
After the departure of the Myopians, clubs for individual sports were formed in Winchester. Reportedly, it was the boys of the Myopia Club who laid out the first lawn tennis court in town. During the 1870s, the boys used to play together around the Frederick O. Prince home on Wedge Pond (in the Wedge Pond Road area), where they could go boating and where they built their tennis court. When the club moved to Myopia Hill, they had tennis courts on their club grounds there.

Back on Wedge Pond, tennis continued. The Wedgemere Tennis Club, named after its location on Wedge Pond, was formed in 1886 and lasted at least eight years. This group had two cinder and four grass courts, a club house, and grounds. Membership was open to both men and women. Club members not only played one another but also others towns in the Middlesex County League, which held occasional tournaments in Winchester.

The club struggled with funding and, during the winters, put on shows to help raise money. Though the shows were reportedly very popular–in fact they inspired the canoe club also to put on fund-raising shows–in 1893 a snowstorm brought disaster when it fell on the night of the club’s most expensive production. [Read more: Minstrels]

At about the time the Wedgemere Club was winding down, the Calumet Club built a club house on the other side of Wedge Pond (1892) with an adjacent tennis court.

The Winchester Boat Club also put tennis courts next to its new club building, built in 1901, as did the Winchester Country Club after acquiring the site for its golf course and clubhouse in 1902.

It was not necessary to belong to one of these private club however, to play tennis. When Manchester Field was converted from a factory site to a public park and playground at the turn of the twentieth century, tennis courts were one of its attractions.

Packer courts
In 1917 the town bought the land for the courts at Wedge Pond, the site of the games of the old Wedgemere club and another group called the West Side Tennis Club. Four courts were originally planned, and work began on them in 1922. Expanded over time to eight to 11 and later to 15 courts, the site is now known as the Packer Courts, after park commissioner William S. Packer. Courts were also built during the early twentieth century at Leonard Field and the Loring Avenue Playground, now MacDonald Field.Tennis clubs continued to come and go. A group called the Benedict Club played on courts on the north side of Park Avenue near Highland Avenue but lost them to a housing development. Shortly afterwards, in 1929, the Winchester Tennis Association was formed and is still going strong. Annually it holds both adult and junior tennis tournaments at the Packer Courts.

There have also been student tennis, and indoor tennis, including the National Women’s Indoor Tennis Championships which once drew Billy Jean King to Winchester.

Historic photographs courtesy of the Winchester Archival Center. Text by Dr. Ellen Knight originally posted at Winchester History Online,  https://www.winchester.us/512/Sports-Recreation