Hidden treasures found during renovation project at suburban country club
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. - History is coming to life at the Olympia Fields Country Club in the south suburbs.
A major renovation is underway at one of the country’s biggest and oldest golf clubs — And what they are finding is amazing.
Olympia Fields Country Club Historian Bob Topel gave FOX 32 a tour of what at one time was the largest golf club in the country, a 110,000 square foot clubhouse surrounded by four golf courses, including one just for women.
Two of those courses remain to this day.
"It served over 1,200 families at its height before the Great Depression, so the place was rocking," Topel said.
Over the past four years, the club has embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation and uncovered some hidden history along the way.
The Normandy Room, a giant ballroom, used to look dark and foreboding — until the renovation revealed massive leaded glass windows hiding behind paneling installed in the 1960s when air conditioning was put in.
Those windows have now been restored to their old glory.
"When we opened it up it was really an Epiphany to open it up," Topel said. "And that’s when we started thinking, well we’ve got to bring this back."
We walked into what used to be an old storage room that housed tables and chairs.
But when construction crews tore down the walls of the old storage room, they found graceful stone arches that were part of an outdoor veranda overlooking a garden on the golf course.
"Where people would sit on rocking chairs and look out at the scenery. And so it shall be again," said Topel. "The shock came when we took it off and saw the amazing light that’s coming in now. Because it was just dark."
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Olympia Fields Country Club is best known for its giant clock tower and for playing host to several majors, including two US opens, featuring legendary golfers like Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.
"Everything was big here," Topel said. "It was built to be big. But it wasn’t built to be super exclusive like a lot of clubs. One commentator at the time said Olympia Fields was about as exclusive as the train station."