Pinecrest Country Club in the Twinsburg Heights area near Twinsburg, Ohio, opened in August 1952, and welcomed some 2,500 members of the Future Outlook League, a Black civil rights organization, for its annual picnic. The Pinecrest grounds, located one-half mile west of Twinsburg, consisted of a 23-acre site, 15 acres of which were acquired from the old Sokol Farm. The country club grounds included 11 cottages, a swimming pool, a small lake with a beach, a dance hall that could accommodate 1,000, a restaurant and dining room, two club lounges, large woods, a baseball field, tennis courts, a two-story clubhouse with dancehall, a playground for children, slides, swings, and many parking options. The grounds also had numerous activities for patrons to enjoy such as picnicking, hayrides, clambakes and weiner roasts, horseback riding, water sports, and balls. Membership for the club was priced at $100 but that did not stop people from renting out the lodges, club, and host private parties. The club grounds were also open for many other recreational events leaving space for Boy Scout meetings and Camp Fire Girls.
Louise Smith of Cleveland purchased the former Sokol Camp in the Twinsburg Heights area of northern Summit County in 1952. The Czech organization had operated the camp since 1934. Smith saw Pinecrest as a place for more average people to experience some of the resort amenities that millionaires were accustomed to at a much lower cost. From the start, she hosted guests from across the Midwest for meetings, picnics, dances, and other events, and the integrated union for workers at the nearby Chrysler plant held its monthly meetings at Pinecrest.
As with many other efforts by African Americans to develop summer resorts, Smith’s attempts provoked white backlash. Not only did the community object to Pinecrest being located near them, the zoning board made it nearly impossible for Mrs. Smith to grow and expand her club. Before buying the property, it was in the boundaries of Twinsburg Village, soon after buying, the town’s zoning board redrew the boundary line to exclude Pinecrest property from their town. The property faced a number of setbacks in terms of development, with almost $10,000 in damages occurring over a five-year period. Park benches, grounds equipment, and well pumps were all items of theft, and physical damages to the property took place as well. Walls were chopped down, windows and baseboards were vandalized, and plants were also shredded. In one instance, three horses owned by the country club were killed mysteriously in dreadful ways.
Despite the obvious setbacks put in front of her and a white community that wanted to force her out, Louise Smith still was able to accomplish success. After acquiring the property at a much lower amount in 1952, in 1957 the property’s worth rose to about $162,000, and the same period saw registered guest numbers increase from 12,000 to 86,000. Smith created a safe space for African Americans to participate in the same kinds of recreational activities as whites. In doing so, Smith was part of a much broader movement, one that the historian Mark Foster has written reflected a key factor in Black leisure: the desire for safety and comfortability. Most African American vacationers only felt comfortable vacationing around other Blacks because they wanted to protect themselves and their children from undeserved confrontations with whites. Louise Smith’s mindset was strong as she believed that nobody could run her away from her business and life’s work.
Louise Smith died in 1959, and her associate Riley Williams Jr. became the club’s president. That same year, the local zoning board charged that the Pinecrest Country Club had illegally expanded its “non-conforming privileges and precipitated a two-year struggle that led to the club’s dissolution. While Smith had stood strong, the club she founded, like so many Black enterprises, was ultimately regulated out of existence.
- Foster, Mark S. “In the Face of ‘Jim Crow’: Prosperous Blacks and Vacations, Travel and Outdoor Leisure.” Journal of Negro History 84, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 130–149.
- “Future Outlook League Plans Annual Picnic.” Call & Post. August 2, 1952.
- “Mrs. Louise Smith, of Pinecrest, Dies.” Call & Post. August 15, 1959.
- “New Country Club at Twinsburg to Open Memorial Day.” Call & Post. May 19, 1956.
- “Pinecrest Country Club Plans Gala Beauty Contest.” Call & Post. May 12, 1956.
- Sears, Art, Jr. “‘Cold War’ Stymies Twinsburg Project Slaughtered Horses Climax Harassment.” Call & Post. September 7, 1957.
- “Seeks 500 Backers of Pinecrest.” Akron Beacon Journal. December 6, 1961.
- Sweeney, Al. “Land Feud in Twinsburg.” Call & Post. July 21, 1956.
- “2000 Attend FOL Annual Picnic at Pinecrest Club.” Call & Post. August 15, 1952.