Maple Hollow Country Club was located about 1.5 miles outside Parkman in the southeastern corner of Geauga County, about 35 miles east of Cleveland. The club’s 253 acres, described by one newspaper as a “veritable paradise of shaded loveliness and rustic charm,” included a 43-acre lake, $60,000 clubhouse, tennis court, and even a nine-hole golf course. A Pittsburgh Press article in 1928 numbered memberships at about 250 from cities such as Cleveland, Toledo, Springfield, and Pittsburgh.
The club was originally chartered in 1925 by a group of investors that included the prominent mortician J. W. Wills Sr. The appeal of its natural landscape and planned amenities sparked wide interest, resulting in the sale of 1,000 lots to African American buyers. However, the Great Depression stalled plans to develop Maple Hollow into Northeast Ohio’s answer to Michigan’s Idlewild, one of the nation’s preeminent African American summer resort communities, and a real estate venture to sell additional lots made little headway.
Unfortunately, bad management caused a financial collapse in 1934, which threatened the investment of hundreds of black investors. This threat called to action the Maple Hollow Development Company, an African American-owned syndicate located at 5422 Woodland Avenue, Room 216, in Cleveland, which overcame “guerilla warfare tactics” by those determined not to allow the property to be controlled by “members of the race.” By 1937 the syndicate seemed poised for success. Two years later, the Call & Post predicted that Maple Hollow was “destined to become the No. 1 pleasure paradise for residents of northeastern Ohio.” Yet, the venture seems to have encountered more difficulties, and by 1940, J. H. Sears, a Cleveland jeweler, had taken control of the property, including its unsold lots.
Although it never became as successful as Idlewild, Maple Hollow was widely known for its success in numerous club sports such as hiking, riding, tennis, baseball, boxing, and track/field. This property was also known for its popular bar and wide-open spaces allowing for breezes of fresh air. Maple Hollow Country Club was a regular venue for organizations’ picnics.
In 1953, the demise of the property was recorded, and back taxes ultimately caused almost all lots to be frozen. Later on, due to the back taxes during the Depression era most of the properties were auctioned off without notifying the owners, there was even a mention of one owner acquiring the land by way of squatters’ rights, which was probably the doing of a white farmer who did not want African Americans rightfully owning the land.
- “Afro-American Notes.” Pittsburgh Press. July 15, 1928.
- “Gala Field Day Planning for Labor Day: Maple Hollow Country Club Offers Huge Boxing Show and Track Meet.” Call & Post. August 25, 1938.
- “Maple Hollow, Ohio’s Summer Paradise, Holds Open House: Development Company to Celebrate 4th Anniversary.” Call & Post. August 24, 1939.
- [No title]. Cleveland Gazette. December 12, 1925.
- [No title]. Cleveland Gazette. February 10, 1940.
- Scott, Scotty. “Courageous Citizens Win Uphill Fight for Absolute Control of Ohio’s Highly Promising Maple Hollow Country Club.” Pittsburgh Courier. February 27, 1937.
- “‘Squatters’ Taking Over Maple Hollow Property.” Call & Post. August 22, 1953.
- “To Start Work at Maple Hollow.” Pittsburgh Courier. October 2, 1937.
- Walker, Lewis. Black Eden: The Idlewild Community. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002.