A number of members concerned about the condition of the Hunt Club have stepped forward with a plan and initial funding for a major renovation of the club. In a presentation to the members on February 6, they presented preliminary plans including renovation to the kitchen, bathrooms, HVAC, a teardown of the Huntsman’s cottage and building a new one along with a new barn. Moving the structures opens up space for parking on the property as well as protecting the existing trees. The Board stressed that a major consideration of the renovation was to retain the historic character of the club so any additions will be add-ons not changes to the interior.
The physical condition of the club necessitates a full-scale renovation. The kitchen is in terrible shape and the electrical system is sketchy to say the least. The bathrooms are not handicap-accessible and those deficiencies alone not only make the club unsafe and also limit its potential for rental income.
Instead of financing the renovation by raising dues, the Board is beginning a campaign to raise the funds from the membership and interested members of the Keswick and equine community. Indications are that a portion of the estimated 2.5 million dollar cost has been pledged.
While a construction schedule and finished plans are in the works, the Board intends to begin construction as soon as possible. Hopefully in the near future, the club will be good to go for another hundred years.
he Keswick Hunt Club was established in 1896. In 1898 the clubhouse was built under the direction of Horatio MacGruder. The building has been used continuously as a club house for social events related to fox hunting. The veranda, constructed prior to 1925, surrounds three s ides of the rectangular structure and since the time of construction, has been partially enclosed. The building is in the late Victorian style, with a side gable and an Edwardian bay window.
Dubbed as “A Brilliant Social Event,” the Keswick Hunt Club building was dedicated on this day in 1898. The Daily Progress reported: “Just on the crown of a finely wooded hill near Keswick stands the new and commodious building of the Keswick Hunt Club.”
A detailed description of the building itself included: “The building is ceiled with the best North Carolina pine; has a floor of excellent smoothness, and is plentifully supplied with doors and windows to admit the cool mountain breeze. The situation of the club-house is almost ideal. To the north and west one catches a magnificent view of the southwest mountains, a brotherhood long since made famous by historic old ‘Monticello.’ A country highway passes near the building, a telephone line runs by the door, and the post office and telegraph office at Keswick are scarcely half a mile distant.
The article went on to describe the party that followed the dedication ceremony: “The audience hall was artistically decorated with sweeping draperies of white and red, while flags and unique club devices were gracefully disposed here and there. The music was furnished by an excellent band from Washington, and the entertainment in every detail was a most pleasing and decided success. Refreshments were served during the evening and it was not till half-past 3 a.m. that the bright hours of gayety were brought to an end.
The Keswick Hunt Club continues to operate to this day and, in addition to continuing the tradition of the fox hunt, the club has continuously sponsored the Keswick Horse Show since its inception in 1904 and has supported several local nonprofits.