NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — The Williams Country Club, a landmark of the Weirton community, sold for $1.775 million Monday during a public auction in front of the Hancock County Courthouse.
Dozens of potential buyers and interested residents gathered in front of the courthouse to witness bids be placed on the club. Attorney Thomas DeCapio acted as auctioneer in the successor trustee sale. Gary Smith, president of Argo Sales Co. Inc. in Wintersville, emerged as the apparent high bidder.
Smith declined to answer questions afterward and did not return calls seeking comment regarding his plans for the club.
Argo is “a diversified supplier of goods and services to the construction, governmental, industrial, mining and oil field industries,” according to its website.
Terms of the sale included the payment of unpaid real estate tax for the property, which serves as a reminder the property has fallen upon challenging times in recent years. The sale also included all furniture, appliances and other equipment at the site.
Located adjacent to Marland Heights Park, the club’s lodge and 18-hole golf course were owned and operated by the former Weirton Steel Corp. for more than 50 years, but were taken over by club members in 1984 after the steel firm became employee-owned with the departure of National Steel.
Last year, the club’s board of directors hired Hampton Golf Clubs, a Jacksonville, Fla., business that owns or operates many golf courses in the southeastern U.S., to manage the property. M.G. Orender, president of Hampton Golf Clubs, said he was outbid by Smith at the auction because of a lapse of communication.
“It was a shame. We had a higher number that we were willing to go up to, but when the auctioneer said ‘going, going, gone, sold,’ we didn’t realize that he had placed another bid. We didn’t hear that last bid, so we thought we had it,” Orender said. “We’ve gotten things in order there over the past year, and I’m confident the employees will be fine. I can’t speak for the new owner, but business will continue as usual until the closing takes place within 30 days.”
Orender said he believes the Williams Country Club staff serve the best meals in the region.
“We’re very fortunate to have had a superb general manager and chef join the team in the past year. The club is no longer losing money. I’m hopeful that Williams Country Club will survive and continue to be an important part of the area, serving great members,” he said. “It’s a wonderful facility.”
Overlooking the Ohio River, the scenic par 72 course was designed by Emil “Dutch” Loeffler, a professional golfer who qualified for six U.S. Opens and finished 10th in the 1921 U.S. Open, as well as John McGlynn, who was involved in the development of more than 20 Pennsylvania courses.
Over the years, the course hosted events held by the U.S., West Virginia and Ohio golf associations and Tri-State PGA as well as Weirton’s own Mighty Tin Can Invitational Tournament from 1964 to 1982.
The stone lodge’s Grand Ballroom and Garden Room offer views of the river.
With a capacity of up to 225, the ballroom and four smaller dining areas have been the site of many public and private events, including fundraisers held by local Rotary clubs and the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, weddings, class reunions and business meetings.
The club was established in 1932 through the efforts of a group of avid golfers that included Ernest Rothrock, a local banker, and Fred Hanlin, then vice president of Weirton Steel. The lodge is named for J.C. Williams, the steel firm’s second president.
In recent years, the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center has acquired from the lodge items of historic interest, including two medieval tapestries that hung there and a painting of Weirton Steel founder, Ernest T. Weir, that had hung over the fireplace, both with the cooperation of Weir’s son, David.