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 quite unstable and capsized easily.
In 1911 and 1912 Commodore "Pop" Corry 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. Corry is known as the "Father of the Stars." This was to be the poor man's yacht: 22 were built by the Smith Boatyard for $265 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 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 that 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 designers decorating 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, with Meteor boats owned by juniors from various clubs on the bay. However, it was an independent organization that soon settled on using the Port Washington Yacht Club as its headquarters. The sailing instructors were the over-18 championship skippers who graduated from the class the previous year. This class flourished for a long time, but went out of existence in 1964 after having moved to the Plandome Field and Marine Club a few years before. 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 caused moderate 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, which broke up the ice in the winter and protected against the battering of hurricane waves and boats (and parts of boats) that 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 negotiated with the landlords and entered into an arrangement whereby a lease of 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 club members. 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' locker house, which had not been completed when the clubhouse caught fire on January 30, 1954. Stock in the Land Company was sold to raise money for the building of the pool. After the clubhouse burned, and since there was only $19,000 worth of insurance on the old clubhouse, the capitalization of the Land Company was increased, and 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.
As we look forward to our next hundred years, Port Washington Yacht Club will continue to remain true to Article II of its Constitution:
"The Object of this Club shall be the encouragement and promotion of yachting and other recreational and social activities by its members and their families."