The first recorded mention of establishing a yacht club in East Greenwich was in 1905, but it took another four years before it was all committed to paper and the deed was done.
On Monday, October 4, 1909, a meeting was held to organize the Club. Articles of Association were drawn, several people were admitted to membership and seventeen others who indicated a desire to join were interviewed.
We have little physical evidence of the next three years, but the third anniversary was celebrated on Saturday, August 17, 1912. A panoramic view of the original building and the cove was recorded and dated. That picture, four feet long, is mounted in the main room of the clubhouse.
The history of that building prior to 1912 has never been determined. It still stands although the practiced eye might discern a few ‘right angles’ that contain something other than ninety degrees. Long referred to as the South Room, it has been incorporated into subsequent additions and now houses the bar and the Board Room.
The picture below was taken on the 3rd anniversary of the clubhouse on August 17, 1912.
Over the years, the Club utilized property that it leased, always bounded on the west by the railroad. Built in the 1840’s, the railroad established a defining line between an historic residential area and the commercial waterfront. The double arch bridge over King Street has special significance in that the engineers who supervised its construction were George Whistler and William McNeil. Whistler married McNeil’s sister Anna and it was their son, James McNeil Whistler, who used her as his model in one of America’s most famous paintings.
In the early years, all of the boats were on moorings with only enough shore side facilities to provide access to them, but a major change occurred when the Club installed slips along what was then a limited length of waterfront. In the 1970’s, the Club purchased property on the north side of Division Street thereby extending the waterfront and slips into the neighboring city of Warwick. In the 1980’s, the leased land on the west side of Water Street was purchased. The result is 120 slips, 125 moorings, a substantial amount of parking and winter storage for 160 boats.
Despite all of the revisions to the Constitution and By-Laws that have been implemented over the years, it is amazing to see how consistent they have been in the actual operation of the Club. It is true that the dues and initiation fees have changed. In 1914, the initiation fee was $3.00 and the dues were $5.00 per year, but the dues could be paid in two installments. By 1941, those figures had increased to $5.00 and $10.00.
A reading of some of the old rosters evokes names that are still linked with the Club. The uncle of our 39th Commodore (Henry P. Eldredge) notarized the original Articles of Association, and there has always been at least one Joseph Lawton on the rolls from the first Commodore to the 32nd Commodore to the 53rd Commodore.
For more than forty years, the activities of the Club were pretty much seasonal, but the hurricane of 1954 changed everything. Out of the devastation of the storm came two names that will be forever intricately linked with the Club. Bob Broz became the full time Steward and stayed for 32 years and Al Waterman, his assistant, stayed for ten more.
The history of boating and racing on Narragansett Bay is eternally entwined with a long litany of both current and former members. It is the continuity from one generation to the next that has served to strengthen the Club’s involvement in the entire sport of yachting. Crews have raced to Bermuda and represented the Club in the Congressional Cup. The Race Committee was twice a major component in conducting Olympic Trials. Our junior program through Greenwich Bay Sailing Association continues to produce outstanding sailors whose names are etched on trophies throughout the country.
The East Greenwich Yacht Club will continue to grow, probably not in land or physical features, but rather in its activities and dedication to yachts and yachting because that is the very nature of our members.