The History of The Greens at North Hills in Sherwood, Arkansas
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The Greens at North Hills, in Sherwood is one of only two sites in Sherwood to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Greens at North Hills was originally named the Sylvan Hills Country Club, and was built in the Sylvan Hills community along the North Heights Highway (also known, at times, as the Ark-Mo Highway, AR Highway 5, and AR Highway 107) in 1926. The country club was envisioned and built by real estate developer, Justin Matthews, Sr., to provide recreational opportunities for residents living in his new Park Hill subdivision in North Little Rock, as well as residents of his planned community of Sylvan Hills, located where Loop, Kellogg, Johnson, and Miller roads are today.
An advertisement in the September 1928, issue of The Homemaker magazine read:
Park Hill and Sylvan Hills constitute the most complete high-class development in the state. In five years, nearly $7 million have been put into homes, schools, a country club, and the installation of city conveniences in these developments. Park Hill offers you beautiful close-in home sites overlooking the two cities; Sylvan Hills offers close-in country estates of any size with city conveniences. Before you select the site for that home of your dreams, see these beautiful developments.
In 1927, Justin Matthews, Sr., and his wife, Agnes, transferred their ownership of the Sylvan Hills Country Club to the newly formed Sylvan Hills Improvement Corp.
This new entity began soliciting real estate bonds to help pay the country club’s mortgage. A 1927 advertisement mentions that the Sylvan Hills Country Club boasted of a “magnificent field stone clubhouse, a swimming pool, four other buildings, and an 18-hole golf course, which has been pronounced as one of the finest in the state.” The swimming pool was the first public pool to be opened in Arkansas.
Sylvan Hills Country Club was very successful up until the early 1930s, when America was hit with “the Great Depression,” a terrible time for recreational and entertainment centers throughout the country as people had less disposable incomes and simply could not afford to pay for recreational and entertainment activities.
During the later years of the Great Depression and World War II, the country club ceased to exist as one. Older residents of the area, including Mr. Lester Kersey, recalls seeing cows grazing on the greens. Milk cows from Salyer’s Dairy Farm on East Lee Avenue were herded to the golf course to graze the fields during the summer of 1936.
From 1941 to 1945, Mr. R.J. Ratcliff operated a quail hunting business on the land of the Sylvan Hills Country Club.
After the end of World War II, several original members of Sylvan Hills Country Club returned home and reorganized the country club and repurchased the land. A beautiful new clubhouse was built around 1946 on the original clubhouse’s foundation. Unlike the original two-story building, the new clubhouse was only one story. The greens were also rehabilitated following many years of neglect and misuse.
As finances were still tight after World War II, the management of Sylvan Hills Country Club had to resort to a highly controversial way of generating extra capital, and that was by the purchase and use of illegal slot machines.
Club members paid a hefty joining fee, but it was offset by the fact that there were no monthly dues. The slot machines, were successful, in that they made enough money to cover the club’s expenses, as well as turn a modest profit. However, when Arkansas Governor Sid McMath began a campaign to end illegal gambling in his hometown of Hot Springs, club officials feared that state law enforcement authorities would soon be sent to destroy the machines at Sylvan Hills, and they took the slot machines to a wooded area near the golf course in the dark of night and buried them. Unfortunately, the machines were found and destroyed. Legend says that a few slot machines survived the raid and were hidden in the clubhouse basement. When the second clubhouse caught fire; however, those machines were destroyed as well.
In April of 1948, Sherwood became an incorporated city. A Mayor, City Council, and other positions were elected. An army surplus building, which would house the new city government, was purchased from Camp Robinson for less than $100 and was erected where Delmont Park in Sherwood is today.
Starting in July, 1950, Metropolitan Trust Company (owned by the heirs of Justin Matthews, Sr.) began selling residential lots alongside Sylvan Hills Country Club to the Sylvan Hills Development Corporation. As Sherwood grew and the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville officially opened in 1955, a huge demand was created for new homes in the area.
In 1956, Sylvan Hills Country Club was renamed the North Hills Country Club. Unfortunately, another disaster would hit the country club as its second clubhouse caught fire and burned on May 15, 1961.
Almost immediately, the leaders of the North Hills Country Club made plans to rebuild. With money used from their insurance claim, the club built a small “teen building” behind the swimming pool and also used this as a clubhouse while a new “state of the art” clubhouse was being built. The new clubhouse was designed by North Little Rock architect, Raymond Branton, and N.P. Alessi, Inc. was contracted to build it. Construction on the new structure began in October 1962, and was finished in December 1963, at a cost of approximately $300.000.
In 1977, one of the world’s leading golf course architects, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was brought in to redesign the then outdated 1920s golf course. The total cost to remodel the greens was around $800.000. The Greens at North Hills golf course is the only Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed course in the state of Arkansas.
After no longer being financially profitable, North Hills Country Club officially closed in May 2007. An offer was presented to the owners to purchase the land for use as a new residential development. This caused a major uproar among many of the citizens of Sherwood, especially those that frequented the links and owned homes alongside the golf course. After much debate and some dissent, the City of Sherwood settled all claims against the property and purchased it with city funds in July 2008. Now called The Greens at North Hills, the golf course is currently a public course owned by the City of Sherwood.
The Greens at North Hills was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 for “its association with the development of entertainment in the Sylvan Hills community, and later, the City of Sherwood.”