Myopia Hunt Club: Horses, Hounds and Heritage
page 4 of 4
A Vision of the Future
Membership at Myopia has always been exclusive, but the origins of the club were in baseball rather than equestrian society, which seems appropriate for Boston. In 1870, a group of men—including four athletic sons of Frederick O. Prince, a member of the Massachusetts legislature who became mayor of Boston—formed a baseball team following their Harvard team’s victory over Yale. The group was organized by W. Delano Sanborn of Winchester, who dubbed them the Myopia Nine, because five of them (including the four Princes) wore glasses to correct their nearsightedness. Despite their physical impairment, the group envisioned the first country club in the Unites States.
The Princes often hosted competitions with their friends at their summer cottage in Winchester. Soon they formed the official Myopia Club with baseball, tennis, water sports, and flat racing and steeplechase for the horsemen. Eventually they built a clubhouse, choosing a site in Winchester on a hill overlooking Mystic Lake. The building was dedicated on May 30, 1879, with a baseball game.
It was Frederick Prince who introduced the sport of foxhunting to the club with the support of Hugh A. Allan, a Canadian who brought some of his hounds from Montreal for an event in the fall of 1881. Soon after, over a dinner at the Parker House in Boston, the group voted to purchase 10 couples of hounds from England for delivery the following spring. Charles H. Dalton, who was chairman of the Boston Park Commission and one of the early riders, deemed the Winchester land unsuitable for hunts and, with the support of the aforementioned R.M. Appleton, proposed to move the meets to Hamilton and Ipswich. In the fall of 1881, they persuaded Mr. Gibney to rent his Hamilton farm to the Myopians.
|Myopia's clubhouse in 1894|
By 1882, the club’s horsemen outnumbered its ballplayers—they voted to change the name to The Myopia Fox Hounds and permanently moved the hunts to Hamilton. The following year, they started raising money to build a clubhouse and kennels at Gibney Farm. Unhappy with the move from Winchester, some charter members, including two of the Prince brothers and Sanborn, dropped out.
Nevertheless, Myopia flourished in Hamilton from 1884 until 1891, when Gibney died and the club purchased his farmhouse, barns, stables and 149.5 acres for $20,000. Soon after, they remodeled and converted the house’s oldest rooms with original fireplaces into a library and a dining room with a bar.
As Little walks through the clubhouse’s sprawling spaces, he points out the wide hearth in the men’s dining room with club milestones painted above. The last entry is the introduction of golf in 1894, and though it grew to dominate the membership, it never overshadowed the club’s equestrian heritage. On the walls hang vintage equestrian photos and paintings of past masters. “It’s an honor to hold this position,” says Little, who has seen the hunt grow from 34 to 112 members during his tenure. “I will fight hard to maintain this equestrian tradition and keep it alive for future generations. I don’t want to see it lost.” Judging by the growth of the Putnam Boston Equestrian Classic in only one year, he has cleared that fence.