BY Marshall H. Tanick
The re-branding of the Brookview golf course and related facility as “Brookview Golden Valley” is both unimaginative and uninspiring.
The banality of the re-christening approved last month by the Golden Valley City Council is an injustice to this iconic site, which has a history that is both imaginative and inspiring.
While its origins go back nearly a century, its modern history began in the aftermath of World War II. The Twin Cities area, particularly on the Minneapolis side, was plagued by anti-Semitism, proclaimed as America’s “capital” of Jewish bias by one national publication in 1946.
The area’s growing post-War Jewish middle and professional classes resorted to their own institutions, a form of religious-based segregation. Jewish physicians, denied practice privileges to practice at local hospitals, formed their own: Mount Sinai in south Minneapolis. Jews socialized at their own downtown Standard Club since they were not allowed into the prestigious old-line area private social organizations and service clubs.
As the movement to the suburbs began taking shape, many Jews moved from the north side of Minneapolis – and a few from the south side – to St. Louis Park, foreclosed from other inner-ring suburbs like Edina and Minnetonka and even adjoining Golden Valley due to restrictions of dubious validity in property deeds that barred them and some other religious and ethnic minorities.
A number of members of the Jewish community imagined belonging to their own country club, another indulgence denied them by the majority-run establishments. Oak Ridge in Hopkins served many of the ostracized Jews, but it was rather toney and a little bit too remote when the Highway 100 Beltline formed a psychological perimeter of western mobility.
Inspired to find a place of their own, they hit upon the site on Highway 55 and Winnetka Avenue, then a tiny village with a rural character. In 1947, a group of Jews paid $95,000 for the Superior Golf Course, a modest 18-hole private golf course with few amenities owned by the Walker family, a clan dating back nearly to pioneer days and whose name graces the world-class Art Center near Loring Park.
Although open to the public, the renamed Brookview Country Club was predominantly Jewish in membership. The facility, upgraded with a clubhouse, dining and ballroom faculties, swimming pool and other amenities, thrived for years. It was not only used for golf and other recreations, but was a center of social life for Jewish families in the community. Weddings, bridal and baby showers, bar and bat mitzvahs for 13 year-old boys and girls, birthday parties, anniversaries, graduation events, business meetings, and even a few Shivahs commemorating deaths were conducted there, along with a bevy of other celebratory and business events.
The festivity and frivolity came to a crashing conclusion within a couple of decades as changing societal mores and practices contributed to its loss of popularity and prestige. But, above all, there was less need for the mission it served as barriers to religious discrimination. Discrimination, although still prevalent, started to wither, as Jews moved to outer suburbs and were welcomed (if at least tolerated) there. Synagogues began sprouting up in Hopkins, Minnetonka, other formerly-restricted facilities like Minikahda Country Club across from Lake Calhoun and Interlachen in Edina. The synagogues began admitting Jews and even some other minority groups.
This trend gobbled up the Jewish hospital, Mount Sinai, the social group, the Standard Club and other predominantly-Jewish organizations. It also affected Brookview, which no longer could, needed or wanted to exist in that format and was sold.
The City of Golden Valley, using a $1.6 million bond issuance in 1968, bought it and runs it as a municipally-owned facility. The city made various improvements like a par-three course and the newly-refurbished and enlarged clubhouse, while dispensing with others like closing the swimming pool.
The Jews, a migrating people since Biblical times, went further west. Still clinging to Highway 55, a large segment of the Brookview membership morphed into the Rolling Greens Country Club in Medina about 15 miles away. But its Jewish character and composition diluted as it evolved into what is now known as the Medina Golf and Country Club.
It’s gratifying that Brookview survives, even with its mundane moniker. As it regenerates, it can look back upon an inspiring past, an imaginative present and a promising future for people of all faiths.
Tanick is an attorney with the Twin Cities law firm of Hellmuth & Johnson and historian and longtime resident of Golden Valley.