The Chambers name is well known in the Arkansas River Valley. Chambers Memorial Hospital in Danville, Chambers Cafeteria at Arkansas Tech University, and Chambers Banks in 20 locations all bear the family name.
The crowning jewel, however, is the castle-like Chamberlyne Country Club carved out of the some of the most scenic bottomland in the River Valley. Prominently displaying the official Chambers coat of arms, Chamberlyne is named after the Old English spelling of Chambers.
Who are the Chambers? A little background is in order. According to genealogical files, the Chambers name in America is linked to a Scotch nobleman named Lord Ross, although some members are of English or Irish ancestry. The earliest members of the Chambers clan arrived in the new world in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s and are among the earliest immigrants to America. Many fought in the Revolutionary War.
One branch of the family moved to the Arkansas territory after William Chambers was captured by Indians during the Revolutionary War. Eventually, Chambers assimilated the Indian culture, married a Chieftain’s daughter and became rich in lands and other property. Many of these Chambers still reside in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
This brings us to the famous John Ed Chambers Sr. family of Yell County. Judge Chambers was born in a log cabin in Briggsville and later moved to Danville. A lawyer educated at Vanderbilt University, John Ed Chambers became a Chancery Judge for the 14th District, and served on the Board of Trustees for Arkansas Tech for 47 years. He also established the Danville State Bank, now called Chambers Bank, as a way to help the people of Yell County during the depression of 1930.
Philanthropic by nature, Chambers descendants carried on the tradition. John Ed Chambers Jr. took over the banking business in 1946 and served as head for 41 years. The Chambers Memorial Hospital in Danville is named after him. Like his father, John Ed Chambers was on the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees for many years.
John Ed Chambers III took over the family bank business in 1987. Johnny, as he is called, is a third generation Arkansas Tech University trustee. He also serves as chairman of Chambers Memorial Hospital and is widely recognized for his kindness and generosity. Johnny opened Chamberlyne Country Club in 1997 as his way to give something back to the community.
Built in the architectural style of an elegant English Manor house, the clubhouse sits majestically on a rise, surrounded by an award winning 18-hole golf course with meticulously manicured fairways and greens, five lakes and several tumbling waterfalls. The course is surrounded by 60 stately homes, many with frontage on the course.
Step inside the club house and one feels like royalty in a castle. Guests are surrounded by original artwork and valuable antiques, crystal chandeliers, tapestries, stained glass windows, comfortable overstuffed sofas and chairs, richly paneled walls, a recessed ceiling, and all the trappings of an elegant country home. The Legends bar, with its stained glass, wood and brass railed bar and elegant paneling, gives visitors the feeling of being in an exclusive English gentlemen’s club.
But it doesn’t end there. The women’s bathroom alone is worth the trip. With its luxurious appointments, new brides are happy to gather with their bridesmaids in the opulent lounge area off the bath. The crystal-chandeliered dining room has a mirrored ceiling and dance floor and huge windows showcasing the manicured lawns — plus a door opening out to a patio near the 18th hole.
Not surprisingly, Chamberlyne is known for weddings and other special occasions, as well as casual dining, but not just for the ambiance, as food served here is world class.
“With our beautiful surroundings and fresh, made-to-order food, this is one of the greatest deals around. There’s nothing else like it in this area,” said Judy Tucker, Food and Facility Manager. Tucker joined Chamberlyne in 2009 after a successful career operating several restaurants, including the award winning Folie A Deux in Fort Smith, which was consistently voted ‘Best Restaurant.’
“Our food philosophy is simple, said Tucker. “We want to give our patrons the best possible dining experience”.
Tucker has a policy of buying only the best local ingredients and making everything from scratch, from elegant desserts and enticing entrees down to the fresh Italian sausage on their home made pizzas. Produce is purchased almost daily and fresh herbs are grown on the premises, she explained.
“It doesn’t matter whether were making a beautiful steak or a brisket hamburger with hand-breaded onion rings for take- out, every dish gets the same attention to detail,” said Tucker.
“Johnny’s focus is to make this place reasonably priced and accessible to everyone. We don’t want to intimidate people because it so beautiful here. Our prices compare with other restaurants in the area and we serve everything from special occasion dishes to everyday comfort food.”
The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and for dinner Wednesday through Saturday nights. It features an extensive wine list and fully-stocked bar.
There is a minimal $10 yearly charge for the private club restaurant and bar membership. This allows the member and their immediate family unlimited access to not only the restaurant and bar but to the clubhouse and game room.
One can purchase a full-resident or non- resident golf membership which entitles the holder to all amenities of the club including golf, pro shop, restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool and twin tennis courts. The club also has private lockers and showers.
To accommodate the realities of a bad economy, full golf membership dues have been reduced from $135 to $100 per month. Residential lots are also available from $20,000 to $60,000 depending on location.
When Chambers was asked how the banking crisis has affected the local economy, he replied, “Banking is still very treacherous. We are past the bottom now, but it will still be a tough year for people and businesses. There are 8,200 banks in the United States and of these 8,000 are small banks. If government had focused on assisting small banks rather than to just a few large ‘too big to fail’ banks, the economy would be in better shape. The common man is the one who is suffering and that’s not right.”
For further information about Chamberlyne’s many offerings, call (479) 495-4110 or visit their website, www.chamberlynecountryclub.com.
GOLF: A Four Letter Word
Golfers may not agree on much, but they know a good course when they play it. The 18-hole course at Chamberlyne Country Club, located three miles north of Danville and 20 miles south of Russellville off Hwy 27, is rated as one of the best courses in Arkansas. Best of all, anyone can play.
On a web site rating golf courses across the United States, a player from Missouri rated Chamberlyne an “11 out of 10. Gorgeous!”
Local golfers also raved about the course. Kevin Marsh of Little Rock rated it “highly recommended” and Allen Veasman from Dover, Ark., said, “I’ve played a lot of courses who charged a lot more and weren’t nearly this good. It’s not the easiest place to find, but worth the effort.” Not surprisingly, Chamberlyne was voted one of the five top golf destinations in Arkansas.
Chamberlyne is a golf dream come true for owner and developer, John Ed Chambers III. He started building the development in 1995 and has continued improving it ever since. The 120- acre, par-72 course was designed by Chambers and golf course architect, Steve Holden, to incorporate many features found at Chamber’s favorite courses.
Last year the club installed ultra heat-resistant Mini Verde Bermuda grass greens to replace the previous greens which had been lost due to hot, dry conditions the past two years. Mini Verde is a very fine grained grass that can be mowed to within 1/8th of an inch.
“Golfers appreciate the low height and lack of grain and get the ‘truest’ puts,” said Chambers. “We’re very excited to see how it will play this year.”
The course’s signature hole is the 5th, which tees off near the spot where the old Hunnicutt place once stood. The homestead’s chimney still stands as a reminder of the farmland once there. The 17th hole has a memorial cross in remembrance of the late Bill Preston Donnell Jr., son of Chambers Bank President Bill Donnell Sr. who lives nearby. Donnell can see the cross from windows in his home.
There are seven ponds, some with waterfalls, on the golf course. All are stocked by fish, lovingly fed by Johnny. One pond that can be seen from Hwy. 27 has a dead tree standing in the water where three bald eagles have been seen coming and going.
Chamberlyne also ranks among the most walkable in Arkansas by a web site devoted to golfers who prefer the “walk in the park” concept to golf-cart riding.
Although a semi-private golf course, anyone can play for a $35 greens fee including cart on weekdays and $45 on weekends. For more information, call (479)495-1110 or visit their internet site at www.chamberlynecountryclub.com.