THE CLUB'S MISSION STATEMENT
The Merion Cricket Club is a forward-looking, family-oriented club established in 1865 to provide its members with excellent facilities and programs. The Club encourages all levels of participation in sports and other activities, while at the same time enabling its members to socialize in an attractive environment with exceptional food and beverage service. Merion conducts itself with honor and integrity in all its endeavors, and is proud of its history and tradition.
HISTORY OF THE MERION CRICKET CLUB
The Merion Cricket Club has had a long and distinguished history. Cricket, the game of English gentlemen, was the cause and the origin of the Club. Lawn tennis gradually supplanted cricket as the Club's chief activity. Merion squash racquets players have been among the nation's best for many years. In addition, the Club has developed a wide range of other family-oriented athletic and social programs within its fine facilities.
It all began in 1865. In October of that year, fifteen young men, led by William Montgomery and Maskell Ewing, met and signed their names to the following:
"We, the undersigned, agree to unite together in a cricket club to meet for play next spring at least once a week."
The signers’ ages ranged from 14 to 22 years. The first meeting was held on December 16, 1865. Rowland Evans, one of the fifteen founders, recorded the meeting in his notebook with these words: "In the fall of 1865, a number of young gentlemen of Lower Merion, Montgomery County and Radnor, Delaware County met together and took preliminary steps for organizing a Cricket Club.
After considerable discussion it was decided to call the Club THE MERION CRICKET CLUB."
Original Grounds in Wynnewood
Several months later, on April 21, 1866, a second meeting was held, at which the Club was organized and the first slate of officers elected. Mr. Evans subsequently wrote:
"After some trouble grounds were obtained, just above Wynne Wood Station on the Penna. Cent. R. R.; and here the club played regularly twice or thrice a week."
The Club's overhead expenses were not weighty, nor were its assets. Dues were originally $0.30 per quarter, and the entrance fee was $4.00. Scarlet was chosen as the Club's color.
As enthusiasm for cricket grew, so did the Club's membership. It became increasingly apparent that the establishment at Wynne Wood was inadequate.
In December 1873, the Club decided to lease, with option to buy, five acres of land at the end of a road, since called Cricket Avenue, in Ardmore. At a meeting in March 1874, the Club was chartered, and a constitution and by-laws were adopted. The Club seal dates from that meeting. In May, a five-year lease for the new premises was signed. In October 1875, the Club acquired the grounds outright.
In June 1876, blue, green, and red striped flannel was chosen as the "Club Flannel." (These colors are displayed today in the Club necktie.)
Lawn tennis was first played on the Club grounds in 1879, five years after the game was invented. Interest in tennis grew rapidly during the next years, and it became one of the Club's most popular sports. The tennis-playing members constituted a club within a club, and more and more members joined the tennis club. In December 1887, dark maroon was chosen as the color for the Club cap, coat and sash, with a white "M" embroidered on the cap and on the pocket of the coat. A Club flag of the same color was approved, with a white "M.C.C." in the center.
The Move to Haverford
Before long, with the Club's constantly growing membership, the Ardmore grounds began to prove inadequate to the needs. In 1888 a committee was appointed to explore the possibilities of obtaining a suitable tract "within 600 feet of a station on the Penna. R.R. between Merion and Rosemont incl." At a meeting of the Club in June 1891, the Board was authorized to enter into negotiations with several gentlemen who had proposed organizing a Land and Improvement Company, purchasing ground and leasing it to the Club. Those gentlemen had made application for a charter, having secured a limited option on the property known as the "Eldredge" and "Wright" properties situated at Haverford College Station on the Pennsylvania Railroad. The tract contained between 12 and 13 acres, with two stone dwellings upon it, which could be utilized by the Club. The Haverford Land and Improvement Company was chartered in January 1892, and bought the two Haverford properties, which it leased to the Club for 999 years beginning April 1, 1892.
In August the new Haverford grounds were opened for play. The "Main House" was formally opened on the evening of November 23, 1892, and the formal opening of the grounds was on May 13, 1893.
Many important tennis tournaments have been played at the Club since its move to Haverford. The Pennsylvania State Tennis Tournament was first held at Merion in 1894, and was played here for many subsequent years. A number of outstanding Merion players won the tournament, and several became national champions. Merion has also hosted the women's Pennsylvania and Eastern States Tournament. The National Intercollegiate Tournament was held at the Club from 1900 to 1916, 1919 to 1934, and in 1937. And the Davis Cup Challenge Round was contested at Merion in 1939.
The Club's first bowling alleys were built in 1895.
Recovery After Two Fires
On January 4, 1896, the clubhouse and its contents were completely destroyed by fire. Immediately, work was begun to build a new and larger house. This building - designed by, famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness - was set farther back toward Grays Lane, providing a much larger field for both cricket and tennis.
Hardly had the new clubhouse been occupied when it caught fire, on September 24, 1896, and was badly damaged. However, a large part of the building was saved. It was restored and formally reopened on April 21, 1897.
Rather than halting the Club's progress, the disastrous fires of 1896 appear instead to have stimulated the members’ zeal. An international cricket match with an Australian eleven was played upon the grounds on October 1, only a week after the clubhouse had been burned. And, despite the condition of the clubhouse, an annual flower show was inaugurated.
First Soccer Team
A soccer team was organized in 1896. Concerning this team, the report of the Board to the annual meeting stated: "A number of matches have been played upon the ground, but our team in the early matches proved so strong a one that a great difficulty was experienced in getting our later antagonists to keep their appointments." As a result of Merion's continued strong soccer program and its excellent soccer field, many international and other important matches were played at the Club.
First Golf Course
Golf also made its appearance among the growing variety of Club sports. In 1895 many members of Merion Cricket became interested in golf. In early 1896 a tract of land containing about 100 acres, situated three-quarters of a mile northeast of the Club's Haverford grounds, was leased, and a nine hole course was laid out. The course was opened in May 1896. A golf house was completed on this ground in December 1898. In 1900 nine more holes were added, making a full course of 18 holes.
In 1910, the Merion Cricket Club Golf Association was formed, and purchased land in Haverford Township, Delaware County, for developing the Club's own course. This new course (now called the East Course) was opened in September 1912, at which time the original course was abandoned. The second course - the West Course - was opened in 1914.
The Beginnings of Squash and Hockey
In 1900, three squash racquets singles courts were constructed adjoining the clubhouse, and the game rapidly became one of the Club's principal sports. Also in 1900, ladies field hockey was inaugurated, and has proved to be a very popular sport. Merion has been the site of many international matches. A number of Merion players have been named All-Americans.
For years cricket was the principal activity at the Club. Many important matches were played on the Club's grounds. However, cricket began a gradual decline in the first quarter of the new century, and diminished even further in, the second quarter. The sport enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1970's that has continued to the present. Today, cricket matches are played several times a year, with the Merion team wearing flannels of blue, green and red.
During World War One, many members of the Club entered the military service. Nineteen of these gave their lives, and are memorialized by a plaque at the base of the flagpole near the Club entrance.
In 1920 the Club bought about three acres of adjoining property on the northeast side of the grounds. Included was a residence, which was renovated to provide additional living-quarters for members residing at the Club and became known as the "Lodge". The residence continued to be used in this capacity until 1969, when it was tom down. In 1971 and 1972, three new Teniko tennis courts were built at this location.
In 1923, a doubles squash racquets court was constructed adjoining the three singles courts. This court was reconstructed to standard dimensions in 1950. Over the years, Merion has produced many national squash racquets champions in singles and doubles.
In 1928 the Club embarked upon a massive program of alterations, improvements and additions. These included moving the dining room and kitchen to the first floor, adding three private dining rooms, installing new heating, and lighting systems, and redecorating and refurnishing the clubhouse. A new locker building with about 500 lockers was constructed. Included in this building were three squash racquets singles courts, making a total of six singles courts and one doubles court. The Golf House was also improved in 1928 and 1929.
In the summer of 1936, the Board approved plans for extensive alterations to the ballroom and second floor of the main clubhouse. The new Sun Lounge, attractively furnished and decorated, was placed in the southern half of what was previously the dining room.
In 1936 three Merion members won berths on the first U. S. Men's Field Hockey team, and participated in the Olympic games in Berlin. In 1947 preliminary Olympic trials for the 1948 team were held at Merion.
In 1937 facilities were provided at the Club for badminton. The badminton program ended in 1965 with the construction of new squash racquets courts. In December 1937, the first exhibition of photographs by Merion members was held. It was successful, and many equally enjoyable exhibitions have since taken place.
Softball was added to the Club's sports in 1938, and for years Merion has fielded highly competitive teams.
During World War Two, the Club participated in a number of activities to support the war effort. Many Merion members served in the military during the war. Nineteen did not return. They are memorialized by a plaque displayed in the clubhouse.
Separation of Golf Club
In January 1942, because of the growth and the diverging interests and needs of both the Cricket and the Golf clubs, it was decided to operate separate clubs. The separation became effective in March 1942. (At that time, Merion Cricket had approximately 2,200 members.)
The Club continued to improve its physical plant. In April 1945, four Teniko fast-drying tennis courts were opened for play. These were so successful that two more were constructed beginning in the fall of 1947 and completed in the spring of 1948. Later, four more Teniko courts and three all-weather courts were added, making a total of 13 hard-surface courts.
The bowling alleys were renovated in 1951, and were rebuilt in 1963. For years, Merion has entered a number of teams in the Inter-Club League, and has been very successful in the competition.
In 1961 two platform (paddle) tennis courts were built.
In 1965 two new singles squash racquets courts and one new doubles court were added to the physical plant (replacing the badminton courts which had been built in 1937).
In 1969 the Club started a soccer program for members’ sons and daughters. The program has proven to be a tremendous success with teams for children ranging in age from 6 to the upper teens.
In 1973 the Cricket Room, featuring informal dining, was built, and quickly became very popular with the membership.
The most recent major facility to be erected was the indoor tennis building, which was completed in 1974. The facility includes a ladies locker room, which replaced the previous ladies locker room located in the Cottage next to the Porte-cochere.
In 1974, the two existing platform tennis courts were re-decked with aluminum and an additional platform tennis court was built. In 1980 the platform tennis warming hut was constructed.
In 1983 the Club installed central air conditioning in the Ballroom, Sun Lounge, certain meeting rooms and the Cricket Room to increase their use during the summer months, and to provide more comfort to the members using them throughout the year.