The Founding of Hollywood Club

In the early years following the Civil War period, probably in the late sixties, two men, one a prominent Congregational minister, Dr. J. Clement French of Newark, NJ, and the other a Boston business man, Alden Speare, were drawn by the lure of the Adirondack forest, and started their hunting and fishing trips in the North Woods, as that region was then called.

There are no available records as to who their companions were on these early trips, but the so-called “French party” were induced by their guides to seek another camp site west of the Racquette River, where they were assured they would find better hunting and fishing country.  So they invaded the present HC territory and made their camp site the first year near the large boulder we know as “rock shanty,” not far from the south end of Clear Pond.  The following year they camped on the top of the ridge overlooking Clear Pond, the present site of the HC buildings.

Sometime in the early seventies, Alden Speare and some of his Boston friends tramped in over a hunting trail and made their camp on top of the ridge just west of Dead Creek where the very large fallen pein tree is now located.  They fished and hunted in Dead Creek, Speare’s Stillwater and Lum’s Pond.  The death of their guide and the pressure of business caused Speare to forego his Adirondack trips for some years, but about 1885 he and some friends returned to the same section and located their camp on the site of an old lumbering camp, east of Dead Creek.  This site they called Camp Wolf, but we know it now as “the Chip Yard.”

In 1885, French and his friend formed an association which they named the “Hollywood Associates,” and in 1886 purchased for $250 the 50-acre lot which included a small portion of Clear Pond, their camp site on the ridge overlooking the pond and some land south of their camp site covered with virgin timber.

In 1889, the camp had the following buildings:  the two small cottages now known as the Parsonage and the Cook’s Cabin, located side by side and facing the pond on the site of the present clubhouse; a building used as a tool house in 1952, located on the present site of the Perkins’ Cabin and serving as a combined dining room and kitchen; and sizable lean-to located on the site of the present double Speare Cabin [burned in 1967 fire].  In the hollow square between those buildings was a large campfire site, built by placing four logs about 18 inches in diameter and 12 feet long in a square formation with the enclosed space filled with earth.  Almost every night a large campfire was built, which served the double purpose of keeping away mosquitoes and black flies and of being a focal point where the campers gathered for smokes and talk fests.  A line of tents housed the guides and cook.

A year or two later a group of his associates built as a study and private cabin for Dr. French the little Red Cabin, then christened “the Deanery.”  In 1892 ex-Governor Murphy of NJ built and presented to the Club our present commodious combined kitchen and clubhouse [burned in 1967 fire].

All these buildings were built for summer occupancy, as, under the then existing game laws, it was lawful both to hunt and to fish during the month of August, and this period was selected as the official Club season.  At the time, the only practical method of hunting the summer season was watching for deer to come to the ponds in the early morning or late afternoon, or venturing out after dark in canoe or boar, and “jacking” for your game.  Changes in the NY game laws prohibiting “jacking” and advanced the opening date for deer hunting to October 1, and the August Club hunting season was abandoned.

“I remember, in the early days, just after the erection of our clubhouse, a native of Childwold, who some years before had visited our camp site, dropped in on use and happened to meet me just as he came up in front of the clubhouse.  After a casual greeting he turned and surveyed the six buildings surrounding the Square that had replaced the lean-to and other small buildings he had seen on his last visit.  “Cripes,” said he, “if you fellers only had a post office here, you’d be a regular goddamed metropolis!”

Hollywood Club Memoirs, by E. Ray Speare