Reservations       Clinics       History       Home

Our History

Built in 1899 as part of George Jay Gould's 156-acre country estate, the court tennis facility at Georgian Court is the second-oldest court tennis court in the United States today.

"Bachelor's Court", as it was originally known, was the home of America's finest-ever amateur real tennis player, Jay Gould II, who trained on it from the age of 12 and won 18 consecutive American Championships, from 1906 until 1925. On the occasion of his first national title at the age of 17, his unique style was hailed as "the prettiest court tennis ever witnessed in this country," and Gould himself as America's "first home-bred champion."

Georgian Court was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, and the real tennis facility underwent a renovation, culminating in 2005, through the cooperation of Georgian Court University and the United States Court Tennis Preservation Foundation

The History of Court Tennis

The beginnings of court tennis have been traced all the way back to the fertility rites of the Egyptians and Persians, in which the ball was the symbol of fertility. As long ago as 450 B.C., Herodotus referred to tennis. More definitely, the game of today began to take shape many centuries later as a pastime of monks and other ecclesiasts in France.

From being the game of bishops, priests, and monks, court tennis became the pastime of monarchs and the royalty surrounding them and was taken up in the towns in gambling establishments. It became so popular and public gambling was so widespread and for such enormous stakes that in 1369 Charles V (who had built a court in the palace of the Louvre in 1368) restricted the playing of the game in Paris.

During the reign of the Tudors-Henry VII and VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I-tennis achieved its greatest vogue in England, with royalty and gentlemen of the court devoted to it. (Showtime's popular show The Tudors has shown scenes of Henry VIII playing the game.) In France, too, the game flourished in the 1500s and 1600s, and it was the pastime of all classes in both countries, as well as in Germany, Spain, Italy, and other countries of Southern Europe. In 1600, the Venetian ambassador to France wrote that there were 1,800 courts in Paris alone.

Not only was tennis the sport of Wellington and of Napoleon and scores of French and British kings, but it figures as well in the history and literature of Europe. Court tennis was played in the court at Versailles where, in 1789, the deputies of the Tiers Etat took the famous Serment du Jeu de Paume, or Tennis Court Oath, never to abandon their efforts until they had given a constitution to France.

William Shakespeare mentioned the game in six of his plays. Chaucer, Erasmus, Edmund Spenser, Rabelais, Pepys, Gower, Chapman, Rousseau, Ben Jonson, John Locke, Montaigne, and Galsworthy are among the men of letters who made mention of tennis.