One Sunday afternoon, one of those unreliable “Naphtha” launches conked out just off a yacht club at Ferry Bar, Baltimore Harbor. They paddled over to the club dock for protection until a storm passed but the storm on the dock was even worse. Uniformed dock boys were threatening to cut their lines if they didn’t leave. Members on the porch were shouting “Get that damn thing away from here before it blows up and kills everybody.”
Finally, the storm passed, the engine started, and they cast off much to the relief of the members and employees of the club. After leaving the hostile dock, the Naphtha launch men decided to start a club of their own.
On the night of October 27, 1908, at the old Auto House in Baltimore, forty-eight men attended a meeting at the invitation of Mr. E. C. Loane. The new club was officially organized as the Maryland Motor Boat Club incorporated on November 10, 1908, when it was duly recorded with the State Tax Commission. The record is signed by Meyer Rosenbush, our first Commodore. It is likely that we are the second oldest Yacht Club in the United States in terms of continuous history and proven dates.
In the spring of 1909, the Club raised $8,000 and built a clubhouse on piles on the northern shore of the middle branch of the Patapsco River between the present Hanover Street Bridge and Ferry Bar. A picture of this clubhouse is in our current clubhouse. When more than a few sail boaters joined the club it was decided to change the name to Maryland Yacht Club, which was done on December 17, 1919.
Soon after that, the Western Maryland Railroad bought Ferry Bar from the city, forcing the Club to a new location. The sunken yacht Violet was raised and towed to where the Hanover Bridge Marina is today, and it became the clubs new home. The membership at that time was 138. A picture of the Violet is also in our clubhouse. Commodore Rosenbush’s Seylla, in the picture, won a silver cup on August 22, 1914, and this is the Club’s oldest trophy. By 1925 the membership had outgrown the Violet so they moved to Broening Park, which was owned by the city and is now the location of Harbor Hospital. Twenty thousand people were present to see the opening ceremonies and the first power boat race in Baltimore. Commodore Fredrick George led a Fleet Review of 65 boats that day. The basin grew to 188 slips and was a model for other clubs throughout the country. The membership in 1929 was 665.
In 1945, the Club leased Fairview (our present site) for ten years with the thought that this would be a summer quarters. Fairview had been a big, commercial beach and amusement park in the 30’s. The steamships Mohawk, Fairview, and Kitty Knight brought people by boat from Baltimore and others came by car. During the war years of the 40’s, the boats were gone and the cars had no gas. After the war, when gas was again available, the cars drove to Ocean City instead of nearby Bay beaches. In the late 40’s, the old hotel was renovated into a more modern clubhouse with a dining room, dance floor, cocktail lounge, kitchen and restrooms. In 1953, the Club bought Fairview and in 1955 left Broening Park.
The first “Queen of the Chesapeake” Pageant was held in 1948 and the first Queen was Miss Rachel Holmes of Bush River Yacht Club. The interviewing of contestants started in 1950. Maryland Yacht Club has had four winners: Mary Lou King in 1951, Ellen Potter in 1970, Carol Doetlaff in 1987, and Ellie Hermann in 2021.
In 1971, the new “A” pier project was started and that lead to the rebuilding of the other piers into our present B, C, D and E piers.
Then came the 1975 Labor Day cruise to St. Michael’s. At 2:00a.m. Sunday morning the phone call came informing us that the clubhouse had burned down. We only had a few thousand dollars in the bank, but with lots of courage we built anew. Our present clubhouse was completed in October, 1976.
In 1982, the beach house was torn down and rebuilt making the oldest original structure standing today the carousel, which was built in the early 30’s. The pilings to the north of the beach house which once supported the loading dock where the steamers tied up and discharged their happy crowds are still visible.
The automatic gate was installed in 1978 but our gate is always open to our boating friends! Rest assured, exciting things will continue to happen at Maryland Yacht Club. See you here!