Re: What Little we Know About the Ile de Puteaux
A Famous Tennis Club
About three-quarters of an hour's drive from the centre of Paris, and situated in the parish of Neuilly, lies the beautiful Isle of Puteaux, where the well-known Société de Sport de l'Ile de Puteaux, so closely connected with the development of lawn tennis in France, holds supreme sway. It may be mentioned that quite long ago enterprising members of leading French clubs and devotees of sport had the idea in their minds of founding a club in the Bois de Boulonge where tennis could be played, but the difficulty of finding sufficient financial support stood in the way at the outset. M. La Montagne and Mr. Edmund Kelly, however, approached the Vicomte Léon de Janzé, and pointed to the possibility of founding a club on the Ile de Puteaux, belonging to the Dowager Baronne James de Rothschild. Setting immediately to work, the Vicomte de Janzé secured from the owner, on very low terms, an annual lease for a small portion of the north-eastern extremity of the Ile de Puteaux, and shortly afterwards a financial company was formed to supply the very modest capital required. Next a committee was appointed, two-thirds of its members being foreigners, as Frenchmen at that time did not know much of the new sport.
M. Nicolas Escalier, one of the shareholders of the new company, undertook to prepare plans for a small house, which he little thought was destined to become the first of a series of buildings which now has the appearance of a little village.
By the spring nearly two hundred applicants had been admitted to membership by the committee, two tennis courts had been laid out, the small club-house had been completed, and a boathouse erected. It was in this boathouse, converted into a ballroom, that the Grand Duchess Vladimir inaugurated the club. On this occasion she danced a quadrille with the president, Vicomte Léon de Janzé, as partner, their vis-à-vis being Miss Helen Munroe and M. La Montange, the treasurer. M. La Montagne's witty comment is still remembered: "C'est la 'grande duchesse' qui danse en face de la 'Belle Hélène'."
Of the two hundred members at the time of the club's origin, about 75 per cent. were British, or Americans, but a liking for lawn tennis was gradually developed in France. French members became more and more numerous, until now the proportion has been reversed, and there are at least seventy-five Frenchmen for every twenty-five foreign members.
From two hundred in 1885 the membership of the club has increased to five hundred in 1895, and now there are more than twelve hundred permanent members. Foreign applicants are admitted permanently after temporary membership for one year, and only on giving proof of continuous residence in France.
The first soirée dansante was given towards the year 1895, but the small salon of the early days was found much too small. M. Charles Morice, who had succeeded M.N. Escalier as club architect, discussed enlargements with M. de Janzé, and in the following year a large verandah was built on the sides of the tennis courts, while the number of dressing-rooms was greatly increased. Shortly afterwards attention was turned to the boathouse, which was moved to another spot and greatly enlarged. Secretary's offices, kitchens and outhouses were next added, thus completing the village in the Ile de Puteaux.
In the meantime, however, the members of the committee, under the prudent direction of their president, had a difficulty to face. They were led to fear that their efforts had given too great a value to the ground. The Barons de Rothschild, who had inherited the property from their mother, expressed their intention of purchasing the portion of the island occupied by the club.
After lengthy negotiations the parties came to an agreement. The deed of sale was signed on the same day as the constitution of a société immobilière to take over the grounds at the north-eastern end of the island, the capital being subscribed in twenty-four hours by the members of the Société de Sport de l'Ile de Puteaux. The building operations referred to above were decided upon at that time.
From the point of view of tennis, the Société de Sport de l'Ile de Puteaux organises each year on its excellent courts handicap and championship tournaments reserved for its members, and also Schools Championship Singles, which event is always played on the courts of the club. Other matches are the Women's Championship Singles and Mixed Doubles of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques.
These matches commence on May 20 and continue until about July 10. In 1900 the athletic sports committee of the Exposition Universelle trusted the committee of the Société de Sport de l'Ile de Puteaux with the organisation of an international lawn tennis tournament, for which it gave prizes to the value of 10,000 fr.
The success which attended this tournament has left so lasting an impression on the minds of sportsmen that it is unnecessary to refer to it.
Since that period, with the exception of last year, the S.S.I.P. has given an international tournament at the commencement of every July, when the competitors have been drawn from among the best English, American and French players. R.F. and H.L. Doherty, Gore, Simond, Caridia, Lewis, Mahoney, Decugis, Worth, and the brothers Vacherot, are among the many who have taken part in these tournaments. This year an important Open Tournament will be held on the 23rd June with Mr. G.M. Simond as referee and handicapper.
Source: Lawn Tennis and Badminton – May 29, 1907, pp. 73–74