From relocation to wars to a massive fire, nothing has stopped the Williamsburgh Yacht Club and its love of all things boating for the last 150 years.
The third-oldest yacht club in New York State and the 11th-oldest in the country will mark another milestone in its rich history this Saturday, as members gather at the College Point institution for a sesquicentennial celebration.
As its name indicates, the Williamsburgh Yacht Club first dropped anchor in Brooklyn, established in 1865 on the Newtown Creek waterfront; it constructed its first clubhouse on the Greenpoint waterfront near Eagle Street, on what was then known as Pottery Beach.
By 1887, club members relocated away from the industrial waterfront to Queens and established a resort on Bowery Bay. Less than 10 years later, Williamsburgh Yacht found itself on the move again, this time to the area then known as North Beach.
The North Beach area was ultimately developed into Glen Curtis Airport (later renamed LaGuardia Airport), and the club was on the move again. In 1928, it moved to College Point next to what was then known as the Flushing Boat Club. Williamsburgh Yacht purchased Flushing Boat Club’s property at 118-08 29th Ave. and moved its headquarters there.
Despite constantly relocating on the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, Williamsburgh Yacht established itself in the annals of pleasure boating and yachting, according to club historian Elaine Bauer, a 23-year club member. It hosted the first Ladies Day Regatta in 1898 and was selected in 1939 as the World’s Fair’s official yacht club. The club’s sailing team also was the inaugural winner of the Sechuessele Cup in 1902.
But the club’s survival appeared in doubt in 1988, when flames destroyed the all-wooden clubhouse and deck.
“The investigators never knew what started the fire,” Bauer said. “It was a two-story wood frame building standing on creosote pilings with creosote shingles.”
Over the next five years, Bauer said, the club’s members worked hard to rebuild from the shore up. The club’s new quarters opened on the College Point waterfront in September 1993 with a gala attended by more than 120 people.
Today, Bauer said, the Williamsburgh Yacht Club continues to promote pleasure boating and other safe water activities such as jet skiing. The club also plans on dispatching a team into the Captain Island Race scheduled this fall in Douglaston.
“It’s a working man’s club,” Bauer said, noting that the club members “keep the heritage and history alive” and pass on membership privileges to their relatives. “All of our members really make the club happen.”
Numerous dignitaries, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, state Senator Tony Avella and City Councilman Paul Vallone, have been invited to the club’s sesquicentennial gala.
- Bayside Historical Society looking to bring agriculture program to Fort Totten
- Volunteers wanted for Relay for Life events in Queens this spring
- Federal funding for Flushing Bay channel dredging