A Rare Convergence of a Golden Age Golf Course, World Class Renaissance Gardens and Titan of Industry Mansion
As is often the case with the undertaking of research on American Industrial Age titans such as Charles M. Schwab, many incredible branches of historical significance are revealed. In the case of Charles Schwab, the investigation of Immergrün, his 44 room, 1,000 acre “summer estate”, produced many fascinating threads of remarkable landscape and golf course architecture together with residential construction history. For instance, it is a rare convergence of architectural history when one discovers that the Immergrün Estate was designed and formulated by such timeless architectural giants as Donald Ross, Devereaux Emmit, Charles Wellford Leavitt and had world class grounds and gardens that featured sculptures by Henri Crenier, Paul Manship and Gertrude Whitney.
Although the name Immergrün is currently associated solely with the golf course in Loretto, Pennsylvania, it was actually applied to the entirety of Charles Schwab’s nearly 1,000 acre Summer Estate. Certainly, having a private nine hole golf course on your estate is quite an amazing feature, but the fact that the course was designed by either Donald Ross or Devereaux Emmit with landscape architecture implemented and supervised by Charles Wellford Levitt makes it a one of a kind experience. The equivalent combination of such timeless contributions is the Village of Pinehurst where Donald Ross designed the courses at the Resort and Frederick Law Olmstead designed and planned the town and gardens. Immergrün has the added intrigue of competing and conflicting claims as to whether Ross or Emmit designed the golf course, but it’s an interesting debate only because the course is so captivating and challenging.
Despite only having 9 holes, one makes the turn at Immergrün ready for another pass at the varied and strategic routing. Two par-5’s in numbers 1 and 9, two par 3’s – 2 and 4 and five par-4’s summarize the one dimensional part of the experience, yet the real fun is in the multi-dimensional experience on the ground and through the air. The par-5’s offer glory as both are reachable in two, the par-3’s are quite contrasting as number 2 is very much a steeply sloped Redan green and number 4 is an uphill beast. The 4-pars are a wild ride of doglegs, blind tee shots and demanding approaches. The sixth is an absolute beauty with a fairway full of rollercoaster terrain with a dogleg left that must be managed strategically as the approach is either a long or medium iron depending on the drive position. The green is perched so that a full carry is required to reach the putting surface. This hole singularly and the remaining eight altogether could be a Ross or Emmit creation as they are clearly from the golden age of golf design.
The sorting of fact from fiction as to Immergrün being a Donald Ross or a Devereaux Emmit design is ongoing, but the existing reliable sources certainly substantiate that Emmit and Charles Wellford Leavitt worked on the Estate. In the archives of the Smithsonian, both Emmit and Leavitt are listed as contributing landscape architects. According to Frank Seymour, local historian and Schwab researcher, Devereaux Emmit appears in the Estate’s records as receiving checks for services rendered. Vincent Remillard, Professor Emeritus of St. Francis University, discovered that on the blueprints in existence for Immergrün (unclear if this encompasses the golf course), Leavitt is the signatory and Remillard states that Mr. Leavitt was the builder of record for Emmit in other golf courses. However, the owner of Immergrün Golf Club, St. Francis University, has consistently attributed the design as – Donald Ross – 1917. In essence, the mystery and research are ongoing, which is just another reason to visit Loretto and immerse yourself in the history.