The Mill River Story
Welcome to The Mill River Club. This brief bit of history may allow us to share with you some of the inspiration leading to the origination of this great Club. Founded as a dream of a non-sectarian country club, its members embraced a concept of a Club that would actively develop a diverse membership.
This enlightened philosophy was so extraordinary that the story of the club was read into the Congressional Record. In 1969, the Club was cited by The National Conference of Christians and Jews, "for having made a unique contribution to the ideals of brotherhood for which the Club and all of its members are to be honored".
In 1963, the Club's founder, attorney William S. Roach, a Nebraska born Irish-American and WWII pilot, saw his existing, established golf club yield to financial pressure and lose its attempt to maintain a non-sectarian, ethnically balanced membership. It became, like virtually all clubs, populated primarily by members of one faith. Roach organized a nucleus of nine Long Island golfers to join in backing him and committing to financial support for what would become an extraordinary new private golf club with a core commitment to maintaining a non-sectarian membership.
It would require a property of size and beauty for a great golf course, along with a mansion whose interior could serve as a starting clubhouse. In picturesque Upper Brookville, Long Island, Roach located "Appledore", an estate of 126 acres, on which there was a beautiful Tudor mansion of forty seven rooms. It was the home of Henry Davison, partner in Morgan Guaranty Trust, who passed away, while his wife Eleanor remained on the magnificent property. She was the daughter of Sir Ashley Sparks, head of the Cunard Line.
In addition to the warmth and grace of an English Tudor home, Appledore included a stable for fine horses, a charming pool, and tennis on either the outdoor court, or under the glass roofed, ivy-walled indoor court. Such elegant settings deserved to be preserved and respected for their cherished history and ultimate charm.
Mill River founder, Bill Roach, committed to preserving the beauty of Appledore, reached agreement with Mrs. Davison, to purchase the property for the purpose of creating a fine golf club. With the support of a small team of other successful Long Island businessmen, Roach initiated the structuring of a truly elegant golf club with the diversity in membership to which they all subscribed.
The risk for the founders was financial and more. They had committed to the elite of Long Island society that they would constitute the core of an exclusive, elegant golf club, incorporating a fundamental principle of a non-sectarian membership. Roach and his founding Board pledged to withstand the pressures to accept applicants because of the Club's financial needs. The founders accepted assignment of vital participation in the development work for the new club.
Design of a spectacular golf course was contracted with Gerald Roby, course architect, whose career included years with famed golf course architect, William Mitchell. Appledore provided to Roby the setting for a course with two very different front and back nine hole settings. One side incorporated the meadowlands, undulating terrain, and the infinite variety of apple orchards, as the beautiful basis for a front nine. On the other hand, a back nine of specimen trees, challenging hills, and an exceptional golf experience, became a legend of golfing wonder.
The excitement in the Long Island golf community was heightened by the acceptance of the Mill River Golf Professional position by former PGA Champion, Jim Turnesa. With such a course plan and a great golf professional, the autumn of 1964 saw commencement of turning Appledore into the renowned golf course. Within a year, a membership of about one hundred played and walked the front nine of the new Club course.
The charming mansion and its many rooms became the clubhouse. Use of accessory structures on the property made possible the temporary installation of the pro-shop and all of the basic requirements for the formation of the upscale new club. As the early years passed, major construction brought about dining room, grills, patios, locker rooms and elegant facilities for the membership.
Under the direction of the Club's first chef, Otto Lirsch, the Mill River restaurant facility became known as the world class of the golf club community. Superb gourmet cuisine continued under the direction of Chef Lirsch for a generation, and was passed on to the great chefs who serve at Mill River today.
Additions to the clubhouse and facilities have been accomplished over the years with conformance to preserving the original charm of the Appledore mansion. Distinctive work by artisans has carefully guided the work in process, as The Mill River Club continues to give its members a quality facility in its refined setting.
The superb golf course and perhaps the finest practice facility on Long Island confirms the commitment to outstanding golf at Mill River. The addition of the large swimming pool with separate dining and lounge facilities for warm weather is enhanced for children and family use. The expansion of the Mill River tennis activity is reflected in the new "Har-Tru" championship courts, very actively used by members and their guests.
The fine facilities and amenities in and of themselves make Mill River an exceptional club. But Mill River is a great club because of its membership. The Mill River philosophy and elegance has attracted a unique mix of very special successful people. Successive Boards of Governors and our membership at large have remained committed to the principles of a diverse membership. The Club recognizes the benefits of a modern refined club evolution by encouraging gender neutrality and development of its younger generation.
The Club owes much of its success to the young founding families who included children in the creation of its diverse atmosphere. With golf and a great golf course at the heart of its structure, the Club allows for the child friendly participation of its members. The comfort of the members is preserved while encouraging the use of facility by families and guests. Junior development and summer camp are a separate part of our elite club as an important aspect for the generation of younger members.
Mill River has a past, present and future involving an enlightened diverse membership and an extraordinary Country Club facility.