September 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM
SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – A large crowd of Scotch Plains residents armed with signs that demanded that Shady Rest be preserved filled the council chamber to capacity on Tuesday, and they were delighted when the council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance appropriating $138,163 for the “Undertaking of Professional Studies of and Various Repairs and Improvements to the Scotch Hills Golf Clubhouse.”
Prior to the vote, during the public comment portion of the meeting, many people came up to the podium to comment on the subject of the building at Scotch Hills, formerly known as Shady Rest, the first African-American Country Club and home to John Matthew Shippen Jr., the first American-born golf pro. The Club also hosted many famous entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.
Reverend Porter, pastor at St. John’s Baptist Church, gave a heartfelt reminiscence of what life was like “back in the day”, and thanked the Council for championing the cause of preserving Shady Rest. “We hope to make it a national shrine; we don’t want to see it destroyed.”
Past Mayor Mauro Checchio then spoke of how this property needed to be “treated with reverence” and when he was mayor in the 50s and 60s there was a conscious move to preserve it. “You have a jewel here that would be very expensive to replace.”
However, Checchio did point out that the Planning and Zoning Board needed to take note of what was happening around that area, as he felt that the industrial businesses that have grown up along one side of the golf course should not be there.
“We need to take it out of the industrial zone and preserve history,” Checchio said. After further comments from the audience, each council member then commented on how important this building was and the need to preserve it was paramount.
Questions came from the audience regarding how the money would be spent and if the public would have access to future plans.
Scotch Plains Township Manger Jerry Giaimis then explained that the preservation study would have to come first, and then that would dictate what repairs and other work would be needed and that all plans would be made public.
It was almost an anticlimax when, without further comment, the ordinance was passed unanimously by the council.
Tomorrow: Resolution honoring the late Mayor Walter Grote and more from the council meeting.