The Hudson River Yacht Club was one of the few original yacht clubs on the west side of New York City along with the Columbia Yacht Club, the Colonial Yacht Club, the Corinthian Yacht Club and the prestigious New York Yacht Club.
On February 4, 1874, a site was selected at the foot of West 70th Street and the Hudson River for the construction of its first clubhouse, and remained at that location for six years. They held their first Regatta in June. (1)
In June of 1880, the club moved to a new site for their clubhouse at the foot of West 74th Street on the Hudson River Shore, where it remained until 1889. Here a “pretty new clubhouse was erected, with spacious verandas, and a large assembly room in the second story”. (2)
Unfortunately, population was starting to make its inroads on the New York Harbor area. Industry dotted the shoreline with many factories. Because of commercialization, the cherished slips and wharfs of the Hudson River, yacht clubs were taken over by shipping and industrial organizations. The commercialism had set in as far north as 79th Street, thus the club was now being forced to relocate further north. It was because of this industrial influx that in 1890 the club moved to the foot of 92nd Street on the Hudson River where a new clubhouse was built. (3)
The New York Central Railroad decided to put in a new spur along-side what is now the West Side Highway. To overcome this handicap, a bridge had to be built across the tracks so the members could travel to and from the premises in safety.
Looking north from the clubhouse there was a “grand view of the Hudson and a bluff on Riverside Drive to the south hides the city. On the ground floor of the house is a large storeroom for spars and sails. It is fitted with lockers, in which the members kept their yachting clothes and small articles used on their yachts. At the northern end is a good-sized café. On the second floor is a large parlor, furnished very cozily with chairs, tables and a piano. A large piazza runs all around the house on this floor”. (4) In 1908 a new addition was added to the main clubhouse because of the increased membership. This made the facility a very comfortable place and an “always something to do” attitude was developed. The membership handled all the work and all went smoothly, each one doing his part.
Shortly after 1929, with the collapse of the financial district, (Wall Street), the club’s days were numbered. In 1934, park commissioner Robert Moses abruptly notified members that they were getting the boot because the premises were in the way of the “West Side Improvement”.(5)(6) Suitable land for the move was found at 145th Street, which was known at that time as Riders Yard. After housing themselves in a beautiful clubhouse with a bar and recreation room and all the room they could want and need at 92nd Street, they found they again needed to purchase a clubhouse. The members were determined to keep the club alive and decided to seek a large sea vessel in search of facilities that could float, and would be large enough to accommodate their needs. A barge was found and purchased for $200.00. They moored it at the foot of 145th Street and the Hudson River, where it remained until 1938 when the New York City passed an ordinance stating that no vessel that was to house people could be moored in the vicinity of the Hudson River (Hudson River Drive) forcing them off the west side of the Manhattan Shore for the fifth time.
The passing of this ordinance did discourage many of the members. The membership which had grown so suddenly, dropped to minimum. The records indicate that the following members remained: Joe Glutz, Ed Marks, Francis Dee, Gus Fisher, Ben Miller, Gus Wilder, Hans Ellis, William Lueckoff, Emil Spindler, Arthur Cooper, Duncan Stewart and Jack Donovan. These 12 members still had the determination and spirit, which must have been the spirit of the 4 original charter members who stood together and decided to organize the Hudson River Yacht Club. A new location was researched and found in Mill Basin, Jamaica Bay.
The decision was made and a tugboat named “The Brat” was hired to tow their clubhouse barge to their new home. It was in the spring when they left the site of 145th Street at 5:00 P.M. The moon brightly shone on the water, the silhouette of the city behind them. The members who took that historic trip down the Hudson on the barge were Duncan Stewart, Hans Ellis, Frank Dee, William Lueckoff and Gus Wilder. They arrived at the coal dock at Scott McBarneys at 5:00 A.M. the following morning. Just as the sun was breaking through the blue sky, and their new berth was clearly visible, the barge was secured.
Now the task was to build facilities for the members’ boats. New slips were built and installed. This was completed in 1945. Here the members enjoyed the cool summer nights, fishing in the mornings and swimming in the afternoon. Beach parties and clambakes were the things to do on weekends. During the winter months parties and dances were held to keep the club active until the warm summer days and cool nights on the water came around again.
When all things looked bright and cheery the Hudson River Yacht Club was again put to the test. It was November 20, 1947. The air was brisk with the coming of winter. The members went to their clubhouse, as usual, only to find that a fire had broken out and it had burned to the water line and sank. All the cherished mementos, the personalized beer steins, and all the records had been destroyed. Even though the fire had destroyed the barge, it could not destroy the spirit in the members’ hearts during the very cold winter of 1947.
In February of 1948, the club bought an Army barge for $4,500.00. After the old sunken barge had been towed away the new barge was towed in and made secure. The members then got to work and installed all of the improvements, gallery and ice-box room, rest rooms, dining area and bar, windows, doors, ceilings and floors.
The walls were to be of knotty pine. When all renovations were complete, the dining area accommodated 120 people while the bar sat approximately 20 or more. It was here that they were able to enjoy the tranquility of Jamaica Bay for an additional eight years.
In December of 1955, Mr. Baker reported to the membership of his meeting with Mr. Barlow, Vice-President of The Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Co. Fred Baker’s report indicated very clearly, that the club would have to vacate its present location by early spring because of land fill and improvement, and it would be imperative that a new site be located at the earliest possible date.
The relocation committee which consisted of Ben Miller, Marty Frith and Fred Baker started negotiations with the Dept. of Marine & Aviation. It was emphasized by the City, that the club would not be issued permission for the relocation of the club barge at any location within the corporate limits of New York City. The question of the purchase of property in Nassau County was impossible, from a financial standpoint.
After all possibilities were considered, it was of the opinion of Fred Baker and his committee to obtain a ten year lease from the Dept. of Marine & Aviation for a land location in Paerdegat Basin. In April, the permit was approved and the lease was drawn for a five year term with an option to renew for another five years.
During the months of April and May nothing was done at the new location in the way of construction. However, it was around the latter part of April when members Jim Moran and Charles Hynes bulldozed a temporary road to the property where the clubhouse and docks were going to be built. Today that road is named “Maxie Blvd.” in honor of former member Vincent Mascarella. This road enabled trucks to be brought into the building site. The plans called for pilings to be driven into the ground to support the foundation. They obtained estimates to do the job, which ranged from $1,600 to $2,500.
It was evident that they had to get busy and find a buyer for the barge. In the event they could not sell it, permission had to be granted from the Department of Marine & Aviation so they could move the barge to Paerdegat Basin for a period of one year. This permission was granted.
The plans for the new building were approved May 14, 1956. On the weekend of June 11, after months of delay, with the aid of Ben Miller’s pile driving equipment, they drove the foundation pilings for the new building. Walter Wheeler proved to be of great help to them in driving these piles. The cement block walls went up and finally the building was taking form. By July, sheathing of the roof still had to be completed. The water line had to be extended to the new building and the bulkhead had to be finished. Mr. Enreques was given the job of laying out the lighting and Joe Glutz would take care of the plumbing work.
In August the membership was informed that they had only seven weeks to complete the transfer to their new location. At the end of seven weeks the following work was still to be completed: level and grade the lower floor, finish the sheetrock work on the second floor, complete all of the plumbing work in the main room, gallery and icebox. The pouring of the concrete floor in the galley was undertaken by Frank Cassano and Jim Moran. While this work was getting done at the new location, work had to be done at the old location. One crew gathered up and transported the blocking and the second crew sawed lumber, which was to go into the bulkhead at the new location.
By this time, it was evident that the original five hundred feet frontage was not enough so immediate negotiations were made for an additional two hundred feet.
Between August and October several stays were obtained in order to give them more time, but at the October meeting the membership was informed that without a doubt this was to be the last meeting to be held on the barge. Commodore Baker informed them that they had been served with an eviction notice. Moving the club to its new location was placed before the Planning Committee. This move was made over the Columbus Day weekend.
On November 2, 1956, the first regular meeting was held at the new location. Our liquor license was transferred from the old club to the new one and the bar was again in operation Friday, December 21, 1956.
The following year, 1957, the dance and meeting hall and patio were added to the original building. The public-address system was installed. One hundred seventy-five feet of dock was built and placed into position. In July of 1957, the old clubhouse barge was finally sold for $4,200.00. A crane was purchased in 1958 and the club was ready to haul boats with “Tex” Frost as its operator. A new flagpole was purchased and erected in 1959. In 1961, new showers were built, the galley was made larger and the patio enclosed. The Hudson River Yacht Club had a true clubhouse again!
In 1967, the crane that was used for many years to haul boats in and out of the water suddenly became obsolete and a new and more modern piece of equipment, a Travel Lift, was purchased.
The present clubhouse is still at this location, members have made many improvements since its construction in 1957. The two-story building has a second-floor recreation room and stewards’ quarters, the main floor has a bar room and a large meeting hall with a rear deck and a Tiki Bar. Its docks can accommodate over 80 boats and it has gas and diesel fuel tanks on the club property available to the public. This club could not have been organized nor could the clubhouse been built if we did not have the good fortune to have a membership consisting of such a cross section of men from various occupations and walks of life who donated their time, skill and energy to the completion of this project.
The Hudson River Yacht Club was organized in 1873. The four men responsible for starting the organization of the club were Andrew Lyle, Joseph Stilger, Matthew Robinson and Adolph Joseph. The first meeting was held on November 29, 1873 with James Stewart presiding as president. The first elected officers in 1874 were Henry Held – Commodore, Andrew Lyle – Vice Commodore, Joseph Stilger – Secretary, Charles S. Smith – Recording Secretary, John R. Grant – Treasurer, Frank S. Martin – Steward, James Neter, Charles Flick and Richard Haloran – Trustees. (7)
On May 19, 1875, the Hudson River Yacht Club was incorporated in the State of New York as a Domestic Not-For-Profit Corporation and still is today. It is the 12th oldest yacht club incorporated in the State of New York. At that time, the trustees and directors were Richard V. Freeman, Andrew Lyle, John J. Finn, Joseph Stilger, Matthew G. Robinson, Adolph Joseph, Charles Frick, Duncan Stewart, James Neeter and David McCormack
The membership numbered over 45, and the club was enjoying the background of the beautiful scenery of the New York and New Jersey Shores. Fishing, camping, overnight trips were a way of everyday life for the members, plus the competitive spirit of the challenge of the neighboring clubs as far as racing décor and seamanship were concerned.
The members who founded the Hudson River Yacht Club wrote the Constitution and the By-Laws as we know them today. Although amended throughout its 140 plus years to meet the changes of society, these laws are still basically the same today. The original burgee was a “Fish Tail” Burgee, which was changed to the current “banner type” burgee used today. (8) The “fishtail” burgee is seen on the tobacco card of the Hudson River Yacht Club, which was a card in the set of “tobacco cards” printed by the Duke Tobacco Company in 1889.
In the early years of yachting in New York, the Hudson River Yacht Club along with many other yacht clubs along the Hudson River, which included the New York Yacht Club, the Columbia Yacht Club, and others, sponsored annual regattas. These regattas originally were a competition of sailing vessels of different styles and sizes. The regattas were contests that tested the seamanship of the captain and crew over a charted course. The vessel completing the course with the fastest time was declared the winner. The Hudson River Yacht Club’s Regatta of 1882 was honored when a “woodcut” by the artist J. O. Davidson was chosen to be the cover of “Harpers Weekly” on June 17 of that year. (9)
In the beginning of the 1900’s, yachting on the Hudson was in its “Golden Age”. From the first Fulton Steam Engine to the tall mast of the American Club Racing champions, all varieties of vessels were seen plying the river.
In the first 41 years, and, in fact until the advent of the motorboat, the Hudson River Yacht Club had its large fleet of sailing craft. Many were the old, shallow sandbaggers, which called for almost as much alacrity and dexterity in handling as do the modern racing canoes, with their long outboard slides. On June 28, 1913, Mr. John H. Sullivan set off from the dock of the Hudson River Yacht Club on his quest to travel to California by canoe. (10)
By 1914, few sailing craft were left and the vast majority of vessels that flew the red, white and blue triangular burgee with its three stars were motor boats and most of them of the cruiser variety. With the advances in technology, and the incorporation of the internal combustion engine, power boating started to make an impact in the boating world. The annual regattas changed from wind-driven sailboats into motorboat races. There are numerous New York Times articles spanning many years, which list the entries, specific events that took place and the results of the regattas run by the Hudson River Yacht Club. On July 11, 1912, G.H.Hoerter, (HRYC Member) wins second place on his boat “The Francis H”, in the 210-mile race to the “Cornfield Light” and back. The event sponsored by the Colonial Yacht Club. (11)
While the club was at the 92nd Street location, there were some rather well-known people associated with it, such as Manuel Kleine- Director of the Hippodrome, Clifton Crawford-Actor and Harry Richmond. At one of the opening day ceremonies, Annette Kellerman, actress and famous swimmer and diver champion, was the guest of honor. That day she gave a diving exhibition from a 50 ft. diving board. In 1925, the song “Blue Heaven” was published and everyone was humming it. Gene Austin, the composer of this hit, was also affiliated with the club. Dr. Albert C. Geyser, one of the most active members, invented the Cornell Tube.
Back in those days, the annual dues were $12.00 per year. The initiation fee was $5.00. The land on which the club stood was rented from the Parks Department for $90.00 per year. It was traditional that every member of the club has his own beer stein with his name on it.
In 1934, the Hudson River Yacht Club and the Columbia Yacht Club were given written notice to evacuate their clubhouses by Saturday, June 23, 1934, and at 12:45 AM on June 21, a fire alarm was sounded and the Hudson River Yacht Club burned to the ground by flames of undetermined origin. (12)
Commodore Hans T. Ellis was elected 17 years in a row, from 1928 – 1944, more than any other Commodore. Steve Visco is second on the list, serving as commodore for 14 years, during 1976, 1997 – 2004 and 2012 to the present.
In 1962 and 1963, The Hudson River Yacht Club was awarded by Division XI, Rockaway Inlet U.S. Coast Guard Aux., a first-place plaque for outstanding seamanship in the Blessing of the Fleet.
In 1971, the Hudson River Yacht Club was again to win the first place plaque for outstanding seamanship in the Blessing of the Fleet. They were again to win second place in 1972. These plaques were awarded by the Inter-Yacht Club Council.
Within the last 40 years, the Hudson River Yacht Club has undergone many transitions and improvements. In 1995, under the leadership of Commodore Steve Fricione, the addition of the recreation room on the second floor was constructed. In 2002, the club accepted Patricia Ventre as the first documented female full member. In 2001, with Steve Visco as commodore, a new bar for the clubhouse was designed and built by Robert McVicker, with the assistance of John Nappo and Adrian Hoek.
In 2007, under the leadership of Commodore Cliff Marnick, the main clubhouse room was completely redesigned and renovated with the help of many members. Frank Amore took the role of the general contractor for the project with the main crew of members of Frank Lamicella, Steve Weintraub and Frank Russo who dedicated many hours working towards its completion. In 2009, the club had its first husband and wife as members when Nancy Frantangelo was accepted to be a full member, sponsored by her husband, Rear Commodore Michael Frantangelo. In 2016, a concrete patio was constructed by Mike Stallone and in 2017, the ladies restroom was completely redesigned and renovated under the supervision of Vice Commodore Dave Shamoun and the work of many members of the club.
Even though the club doesn’t sponsor regattas like it did in its early years, it still keeps the traditions of the past alive. The all-important purpose of our club is still the same, the love of boating, the rules of good seamanship, the sharing of experiences with good sportsmen and good friends. It continues to be an active yacht club, never losing the shared interests and goals of boating. The members of the club know and appreciate the history of the club and collectively work together to ensure we add to its growth and development each year.