By Sadef Ali Kully
The Williamsburgh Yacht Club celebrated its 150th anniversary Saturday in College Point with new and old members, the naval youth cadets and community leaders.
The club was founded in 1865, officially incorporated in 1871 and had some of its members and boats serve during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
“We also played a major role in the 1939 World Fair’s and we want to bring that energy back,” said Elaine Bauer, a third generation member and historian for the club. “Boating is in a bit of downsizing – it can be expensive and the downturn of the economy did not help.”
During the ceremony, members raised the American flag on the pier and shot a 1925 naval cannon during the national anthem. The event also featured the swearing-in of members and a proclamation presentation by state Sen.Tony Avella (D-Bayside) as well as dinner and an open bar.
The yacht club’s original location was destroyed during a hurricane and the club bought the property on 29th Avenue from the Flushing Boat Club for a mere $2,000 in 1939. Decades later the 29th Avenue location caught fire in 1988, forcing the club to move again. The club returned in 1991.
“It means we are survivors,” said Bauer. Never far from its original base, the yacht club during its history has remained a staple on the Queens shoreline overlooking Flushing Bay and the East River.
Bauer, herself, is part of the history of the yacht club when she accidentally became first female member of the club.
“We had a wooden boat and my brother, a member, needed me to take care of it,” said Bauer, whose father was also a member. “The club said, ‘Well ,if you want to give her the key, make her a member’ and he cut the check right there. They were left with their mouths hanging and that is how I became a member.”
The club mostly has members with power boats who are interested in participating in regattas, a series of boat races.
“It isn’t that often that you get to celebrate the 150th celebration of any organization, and this is really a tremendous achievement,” said Avella during his presentation of the special proclamation from the Senate .
The Williamsburgh Yacht Club is also a member of the following organizations: Long Island Sound Commodore’s Association, Yachting Club of America, Joint Community Council of College Point, New York Coastal Fishermen’s Association Inc., National Audobon Society.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull