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William Tucker, Whitney Trustees & Court Tennis/Tour

October 9, 2023 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

A game with roots that reach back as far as 14th-century France is still played in downtown Aiken.

Court tennis has been played at the Aiken Tennis Club, a red brick building at the southeast corner of Newberry Street and Park Avenue, since the facility was constructed in 1902.

New York financier William C. Whitney, a founding member of Aiken’s Winter Colony who expanded a small residence into Joye Cottage, brought the sport to the city and, through his sponsorship, the Aiken Tennis Club was incorporated in 1898.

Aiken’s court tennis court is one of only a handful in the United States, most in the Northeast, and one of only about 50 in the world, most in Great Britain.

Court tennis is the forerunner of modern tennis, which originally was called “lawn tennis,” according to a news story in the Aiken Standard in 2022.

Lawn tennis originated in the 1870s in England, centuries after court tennis. To distinguish the sport from lawn tennis, it is called “real tennis” in Great Britain and Australia and “jeu de paume” in France.

Historians disagree about how court tennis got its start, with some saying the sport dates back to ancient Egypt. Others say an early form of the sport was played in the fifth century in Italy. By the 12th century, the game was played by monks in closed courtyards in Italy and France.

Later, court tennis became the game of Napoleon and many other of Europe’s leading monarchs, according to the U.S. Court Tennis Association’s website. The sport was King Henry VIII’s favorite game, and he played on a court built in the 16th century at his Hampton Court Palace near London.

Early competitors hit balls with their bare hands and later wore gloves. By the 16th century, racquets were being used.

There are a number of differences between court tennis and modern tennis. In court tennis, for example, the ball is always served from the same end of the court.

A number of players with Aiken ties earned world championship court tennis titles, including Winter Colony residents Northrup R. Knox and G.H. “Pete” Bostwick Jr.

In 2022, Camden Riviere, who was raised in Aiken and coached by Dacre Stoker of Aiken, added a second Real Tennis World Championship title in singles to his impressive résumé in the sport, defeating Rob Fahey of Australia at Prested Hall in Essex County in England.

The Aiken Tennis Club was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 27, 1984.

Whitney, a lawyer, Secretary of the Navy 1885-1889 under Grover Cleveland, and financier, was also an avid sportsman and leading member of the “Aiken Winter Colony.” He established the Whitney Trust in 1901 “for the institution and promotion of all kinds of sports and pastimes in the City of Aiken, S.C.” Private and public donations alike paid for Whitney Park.

William C. Whitney, called “Aiken’s most distinguished citizen” at his death in 1904, expanded a small cottage into a rambling vacation house of more than 50 rooms. Joye Cottage, its stables, and squash court are Aiken landmarks. He also help establish Hitchcock Woods, and the Whitney Trust owns Whitney Polo Field, the Court Tennis Building, Palmetto Golf Club, and the Powder House Road Polo Fields, all associated with the “Aiken Winter Colony.”



October 9, 2023
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


Newberry Hall
117 Newberry St SW
Aiken, SC 29801 United States
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