Jamestown Historical Society

Conanicut Yacht Club

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In the summer of 1891, a group of Jamestown summer residents, most of them from Philadelphia, met to organize a yacht club. In October 1892, the Conanicut Yacht Club was issued a Certificate of Incorporation.

The following spring, a covered pier was erected on land purchased by the club on the east side of Conanicus Avenue at the end of Brook Street. The first clubhouse, built partially over the water on pilings, opened in 1894. By 1900, 122 member families were paying annual dues of $5 each.

Many of members were also members of the Jamestown Club, a men’s only social club; and in 1916, the two organizations merged. The yacht club then built a new and larger clubhouse providing more rooms for socializing for men and women and extending further out over the pier.

The club sponsored an annual “Water Sports” – a day-long marathon of sporting competitions open to all town residents. Diving contests, swimming meets, canoe joisting and boat races for all classes were held. According to club records, “townies” triumphed in most events. The club also hosted weekly dances and frequent whist parties. In 1951 tennis was added when the club leased and later purchased the tennis courts on Shoreby Hill.

1930's video recording of "Swimming in Jamestown"

Though the hurricane of 1938 only demolished the club pier, which was repaired for $1850, Hurricane Carol in 1954 wiped out the club’s entire fleet, destroyed the pier and severely damaged the clubhouse. In 1955, the club decided that rather than rebuild or restore the clubhouse, it would move into an 1890’s Shingle Style cottage on Bay View Drive.

Besides organizing social and sporting events for its members, the yacht club sponsors the annual Round the Island Race. This twenty-mile course race has been held annually since 1927, drawing nearly 100 racing and cruising sailboats in recent years. The race is followed by an awards ceremony party on the lawn of the club.

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