Historical Overview

The American Yacht Club
Established 1885, Incorporated 1890.

On the evening of March 17, 1885, a party of gentlemen assembled at the Brown Square House, on invitation of the landlord, Elisha P. Pride, who was at that time one of the area’s most prominent yachtsmen, for the purpose of taking the initiative in forming a yacht club.

In response to a call from the same gentleman and at the same place on the evening of March 27th of that year, a number of locale yachtsmen assembled and decided to organize a club, adopting the name American Yacht Club. They chose Elisha P. Prideto be Commodore. Twenty-five members were enrolled.

On Monday evening, April 6, 1885, the Club held its first meeting over the Ocean Bank on State Street, and used that location for its winter quarters for many years.

On May 9, 1890, the Club became incorporated. At a meeting held June 2nd of that year a committee was appointed to locate and contract for the building of a clubhouse and floating stage on the westerly side of Coffin’s Wharf, just above where the present clubhouse is situated.

The Club prospered, held some of the finest and most successful regattas in Massachusetts Bay with as many as 60 entries, and earned its reputation as one of the most hospitable clubs along the coast. On August 4, 1890, the Regatta Committee of the American Yacht Club made arrangements for a grand open regatta to be sailed on Monday, August 18, 1890, to be known as “Newburyport Day.” The Cadet Band furnished music during the race. In the evening a dance was held at the Recreation Hall on Plum Island to which the visiting yachtsmen were invited. The effort was a success and was again looked forward to with pleasant anticipation by all lovers of yachting. “Newburyport Day” continued until the early 1950s.

In 1897 it was found that larger quarters were wanted and finally decided to build a much larger clubhouse on Perkins Wharf. The old clubhouse was also moved there to be used for lockers.

On the morning of May 29, 1907, the whole property was destroyed by fire – a great loss for the Club. The fire started in the old clubhouse, situated on the upper side of the new house, and spread so rapidly that nothing could be saved from either building. Everything was destroyed in short order along with a loss of $5,000. Not to be discouraged, however, Club members rose with more vigor than ever, put their shoulders to the wheel, and with determination started to erect a new clubhouse at once.

William Perry, who later was the chief architect for the restoration of historic Williamsburg, and whose company also provided architectural services for Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, designed the present clubhouse. It was built in 1908 and survives today. It was soon considered one of the most handsome and pleasant quarters of any club on the North Shore. In the first season of the new clubhouse the Club had 156 active members, 10 nonresident members, and 10 honorary members. While not all owned their own boats, the Club boasted of a fleet of 12 sailboats, 46 powerboats, 6 racing dories, and one house boat.

Although the clubhouse has seen many changes over the years, the most noticeable being the recently rebuilt front porch, its basic structure remains the same as when built in 1908. Club membership since has increased to over 300 members, with a fleet of well over 150 boats.

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