History of the Excelsior Club and the Oakwood Club

Historical sketches courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The Excelsior Club was a Jewish club in Cleveland, Ohio established "for the purpose of establishing intimate friendly relations among ourselves, and to enjoy the advantages of an Association calculated to produce enlightened social and literary pleasure." Twenty-two men met on 20 Oct. 1872 in Halle Hall on Superior Avenue at the call of Solomon Austrian to form a social club partly in reaction to Jewish exclusion from such clubs as the Union club of Cleveland and the Century Club. Typical of the Jewish social clubs of the emerging upper middle class founded throughout the United States in the late 1800s, the Excelsior included in its membership only upwardly mobile Jews with German cultural backgrounds. During its existence, the Excelsior Club met at 5 locations, including Weisgerber's Hall on Prospect and Brownell, the Corlett Building on Erie (East 9th) Street, the specially designed 2nd and 3rd floors of the newly constructed Halle Building at Erie and Woodland, and a large building designed by Cudell & Richardson dedicated at 38th and Woodland. In 1908 Excelsior moved into a new home on Euclid Avenue in the Wade Park district, which is today (1996) Thwing Hall of Case Western Reserve University. The club sponsored a variety of social events for its members and provided dining and recreational facilities. In 1931, recognizing that the Oakwood Club (1905) included many of the Excelsior members and provided similar and expanded activities, the Excelsior leadership effected a merger of the two clubs.

The Oakwood Club was located at 1516 Warrensville Center Road and was the first major Jewish organization located in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Founded as a golf club for Jewish merchants and professionals, it was incorporated on July 1, 1905 by Leopold J. Wolf, Morris Black, Edward M. Baker, Hascal Land, and Maurice (Moses) J. Mandelbaum. A 9-hole golf course was opened in 1906, and an additional 9 holes were dedicated on the club's 159 acres in 1915. The course was chosen as the site of the 1921 Western Open golf Tournament, which included golf greats Bob Jones, Gene Sarazen, and Walter Hagen. The Oakwood Women's Golf Association was established in 1931. As membership grew from the 70 charter members, Oakwood expanded to provide additional recreational and social facilities. The largest expansion occurred with the merger of Oakwood and the Excelsior Club in 1931, raising Oakwood's membership from 300 to 450 with new classes of membership established to accommodate the non-golf playing members of the Excelsior. The clubhouse was subsequently expanded, with the addition of squash courts, bowling alleys, and an outdoor swimming pool by 1935. Further changes included the enlargement of women's facilities in 1953 and the addition of an entertainment and dining center in 1972. During World War II, club members used the Isaac Joseph home on Oakwood Drive while the United States Army's 729th Military Police Battalion utilized the Oakwood clubhouse as a barracks.

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for the Oakwood Club

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for the Excelsior Club