Beautifully engraved certificate from Port Washington Yacht Club, Inc. issued in 1941. This historic document was printed by GOES and has an ornate border around it. This item has been hand signed by the Company’s President, and Secretary, and is over 70 years old. Cut in upper left corner.
The Port Washington Yacht Club was founded in the Spring of 1905 as “The Port Washington Club.” The first real meeting, at which nineteen charter members were present, took place on April 26, 1905. At that time it was arranged to rent an old shack as a clubhouse located on the waterfront at what is now the north end of Bayview Colony. There were substantial grounds around the shack, and house and grounds rented for $600 for the first year, with $100 of the $600 being rebated to the club to pay for repairs to the shack. The initial by-laws provided for an initiation fee of $10, and dues of $20 per year. The by-laws also provided for no spiritous or malt liquors being sold by or for the club. The purpose of the club was stated as being to encourage social and athletic activities for people of the Port Washington peninsula.
The actual opening day of the club was on May 27, 1905. At the first annual meeting it was reported that tennis was the best sport. One yacht race was held. It was reported to have been unsuccessful because the yachts entered consisted of one schooner, two yawls, five sloops, six catboats, and six power launches. Other well-patronized activities were water sports, swimming, diving, and skeet shooting.
Bonds were sold, the building of the original clubhouse was started, and the membership grew to about 150. In 1910 the club changed its name to the Port Washington Yacht Club and designated the officers as Commodore and Vice-Commodore instead of President and Vice-President.
Class Boats Developed
In 1907 the first boat called “The Bug,” a 17 foot boat, was designed and built by William Gardner. It was a centerboarder carrying sandbags for ballast, but it was still very unstable and capsized easily.
In 1911 and 1912 Commodore “Pop” Corey went to William Gardner, a noted naval architect, to ask him to improve the Bug. This resulted in the design of the Star Class boat by one Sweisguth. This was to be the poor man’s yacht. Twenty-two were built by the Smith Boatyard for $265.00 per boat, less sails. These boats were owned by members of the various clubs in the bay, but many of the races were run from the Port Washington Yacht Club.
In those days there was a flagpole with a crow’s nest upon it at the end of the club pier and the Race Committee operated from the crow’s nest. Subsequently Adrian Iselin of the Port Washington Yacht Club started racing Star Boats with Ed Willis for crew, and they won the World’s Championship in 1925, and again in 1936.
In the Winter of 1916-17 the shipyard next to the Port Washington Yacht Club, which was then the principal shipyard in Port Washington, had a fire which destroyed most of the boats. For a year or so the owners of those boats sailed Duck Boats about the Bay until they raised enough money to acquire larger boats.
In the 1920s before the Depression, family activity at the club reached its first peak. There were eight tennis courts, and the club, which belonged to the Eastern Lawn Tennis Association, played team matches with other clubs every Sunday. Star boat racing was active and the social life of the club, with interior decorators coming to decorate the ballroom for dances, and the steward acting as a bootlegger, made for very active parties.
In 1928 the Meteor Class was formed for Junior Sailing and the Meteor boats were owned by Juniors from various clubs on the bay. However, it was an independent organization and it soon settled on using the Port Washington Yacht Club as its headquarters. The sailing instructors were the Championship Skippers from the year before who had graduated from the class due to having passed the Junior age limit of 18. This class flourished for a long time, and only went out of existence in 1964. It had been moved to the Plandome Field and Marine Club for a few years before 1964. The Meteor Class championship trophy has been presented to the Port Washington Yacht Club. Edward Miller’s father, known as “Billy,” was Chairman of the Race Committee of the Port Washington Yacht Club from 1927 until 1952, and was recognized by the Y.R.A. as holding the World’s Championship for Race Committee Chairmanship.
Two hurricanes in 1938 and in 1944 did a moderate amount of damage to the Port Washington Yacht Club and its waterside facilities. Fortunately, however, the original dock builders built well, with stone cribs having inclined sides as a support for the pier. This was to break up the ice in the winter so it wouldn’t take the pier with it, but also served as a protection against the battering of the hurricane waves and the boats (and parts of boats) which were thrown against the pier.
The Port Washington Yacht Club was incorporated as a membership corporation under the Laws of the State of New York on April 24, 1936.
Land Purchased Old Clubhouse Burns
At the end of the 1940s the club, which had been renting the property occupied by it from the Davis family since 1908, found the going more difficult. Leases of only one year at a time could be obtained, and the threat of having the property sold for a real estate development was imminent. The club, accordingly, entered into negotiations with the landlords and was able to enter into an arrangement whereby a lease for several years was granted, with an option to purchase, and with a portion of each of the last few years rent being applied to the purchase price if the land was purchased before the lease expired. To raise enough money for the purchase, a Land Company was formed and stock was sold to members of the club. The Land Company purchased the property on December 22, 1951, giving back a purchase money mortgage to the landlords and giving the club a twenty-year lease on the property. The mortgage has now been paid off. Shortly after the purchase, the swimming pool was built, followed by the men’s and boys’ lockerhouse, which had not been completed when the clubhouse caught fire on January 30, 1954. Stock in the Land Company had been sold to raise money for the building of the pool. After the clubhouse burned, and since there was only about $19,000 worth of insurance on the old clubhouse, the capitalization of the Land Company was increased, and the members came forward to purchase enough additional stock to enable the building of the present clubhouse and the smaller building, which serves both as Junior Clubhouse and Tennis House.
Cow Bay’s Family Club
Through the years the Port Washington Yacht Club has prospered and broadened its membership and activities to a point that would have amazed its founders. The total membership now totals over 325, with significant participation in all traditional yacht club activities.
The club’s fleet is about evenly distributed between sail and power, with the sailors participating actively in one-design racing and auxiliary cruising yacht racing on the bay and longer distance racing in Long Island Sound and the waters surrounding New York City. Our junior sailing program is conducted in Blue Jay, 420, Laser, and Optimist Class boats and has produced many trophy winners in recent years. The club’s yachting facilities, which were improved by widening the dock and the installation of an all-tide dry-sailing electric hoist, are among the finest on the Sound.
The club’s tennis facilities are also among the finest in the area, consisting of four Har-tru courts and nearby dressing rooms. Numerous intra-club tournaments and junior activities provide a complete tennis program. The club’s men’s and women’s teams compete in inter-club matches with notable success.
In addition, the club has two platform tennis courts that are actively used throughout the winter months. With a warming chalet and observation deck, this facility is especially popular for parties and open round play. Our men’s and women’s teams participate in competition with other clubs.
Another popular outdoor activity during the winter is trapshooting on Saturday mornings. Beginners and experienced shotgun shooters join in individual and team competition on a handicap basis.
The club’s Ladies Group conducts an active program including bridge, fashion shows, sailing instructions, bowling, tennis and book club.
A Junior Activities Committee coordinates various junior activities throughout the year, including dances, pool parties, an Easter egg hunt and a Christmas party. Junior sailing, tennis, swim instruction and swim team activities are available to members’ children. The Junior Yacht Club is a full day, five day a week program for children ages 8-12 that incorporates junior sailing, junior tennis, swim instruction and swim team, arts and crafts and other sports. The Guppy program, for children ages 4-7, introduces them to swimming, tennis, arts and crafts, and sailing three half days a week.
The club’s swimming pool was extensively repaired in 1983 and is always the center of family activities. Organized swimming and diving activities are an important part of the swimming program. A family fun day is always well attended and there is swimming competition with other clubs in the North Shore area.
During 1982 the Junior Sailing building was refurbished by the Projects Committee, and in 1983 the Commodore’s Lounge was redecorated. The purchase of all new chairs and curtains for the main dining salon and the repainting of both rooms has enhanced the appearance of the club.
The 1986 celebration of the Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty gave reason to name a new fiberglass launch to be christened “Miss Liberty.” In 1987, our new dry boat storage area was completely paved with a central grass area; and new docks were added to our already extensive waterfront, making ours one of the finest in Western L.I. Sound. In 1988, another new fiberglass launch was delivered and christened “Constitution” with our third wooden launch rechristened “Independence.” Yachting remains our main focus and the center of our heritage. In this respect, our club joins with the other yacht clubs on Manhasset Bay to maintain a committee boat named “Worry Wart,” which is used each summer weekend for conducting a variety of “one class” races. In the spring of 1990, our pier and “T” head were refurbished in preparation for the summer season.
In 1991 the paddle tennis courts were replaced with heated aluminum courts, and membership for this sport reached 105. Junior sailing also reached record enrollment.
1992 was a year of planning for projects that would take our club into the next century. The first result, completed in l993, was the new facade on the front of the clubhouse entranceway and area for dropping off guests.
In 1995, the Land Company purchased the land adjacent to the north side of the land occupied by the club; this property was previously operated by Sigsbee Marina as a marina and shipyard. Now known to members as “The Anchorage”, it is home to Junior Yacht Club and Junior Sailing activities during the season and is used for boat storage and repair in the off season.
In 1998, the members approved “Vision 2000,” for which construction began in October, 1999. The club facilities have been greatly enhanced with this effort. Major changes to the pool, pool deck, locker rooms and snack bar are complete, as is a dining room expansion, improvements to the Commodore’s Lounge, an upgrade to the kitchen equipment and layout, and construction of new offices and meeting space for members. The enhancements were completed in April, 2001.
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