History

The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 spurred the growth of Buffalo. The concomitant influx of yachtsmen from the East Coast nurtured the formation of the Buffalo Yacht Club. Early in August 1859 a small group initiated this action and on August 10, 1860 they adopted a constitution and by-laws naming John S. Newkirk as the first Commodore. We have a proud heritage as perhaps the third oldest yacht club in continuous operation in the United States.

The club began in 1860 with about a dozen men who paid an initiation fee of $3 and annual dues of $2. There are now over 600 members in all categories. The rolls over the years have listed many illustrious Buffalonians including President Grover Cleveland.

The saga of our clubhouses has led us to our current, or fifth, building. The first four, variously located on the breakwaters facing Lake Erie and the Niagara River, all succumbed to fire or lake storms. The present clubhouse was opened under the aegis of Commodore Frank Hower in 1893. It has been thrice moved, coming to rest in its present location in 1923. In 1951 it was severely ravaged by a sensational fire, but through monumental effort, the members restored and remodeled it. Many of the excellent improvements to the premises have been effected by the club’s active ladies group.

The Point Abino Station came into being in 1902 through the generous donation of land to the Yacht Club by Mr. Allen Holloway. Here too, disaster struck promptly, the new clubhouse burning to the ground in 1905. A series of rustic buildings were then put up and remain to this day. Although continually improved, they retain their original charm, providing a perfect setting for casual summer gatherings. There have been gargantuan strides in the development of this station during the past 30 years. Since 1960 the capacity of the basin has grown from 16 boats to over 125. In the 1980s tennis courts and a swimming pool were added, further embellishing the bustle of activity at the Point.

Although the number and types of boats in the club’s fleet in 1860 is unknown, the current fleet comprises over 300 vessels of all descriptions. The competitive exploits of our member are myriad with victories in such boating events as the American Powerboat Association Cup, the Erie Dover or Interclub Cruise, the Lake Erie Race and the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit. Our 1913 Commodore, Dr. Elisha Hussey, pointed out decades ago that our most important membership category is the junior member. Recognizing this, the club has offered a fine junior sailing program that has, since 1956, developed many fine sailors proficient in seamanship and racing.

History has helped make the Buffalo Yacht Club what it is today and every new member contributes to the strength of the club.


Genesis

The Port of Buffalo grew at a fantastic rate after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Warehouses appeared overnight; shipyards sprang up on all sides; Lake Erie traffic became tremendous. Buffalo business was transfused with new faces: Enterprising men who, sensing the future, appeared overnight. Many newcomers arrived from the eastern seaboard by way of New York. As they came, they brought new customs, modes of living, and the latest in sports and styles -- including the sport of yachting.

It was natural that some active and intelligent yachtsmen in the area should follow the lead of the New York Yacht Club (founded in 1844) and their neighbors in Toronto who founded the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in 1852.

Thus the Buffalo Yacht Club was started in 1860 at the western terminus of the Erie Canal. The Club’s first regatta was run August 22, 1860, and in the first class, Commodore John Newkirk’s sloop Uncle Sam won, followed by James Booth’s sloop Young Republic. Charles Beck’s Banner won first place in the second class ahead of Alfred Johns’ Young America. No mention is made of the number and sizes of the yachts owned by the members, but some of the members owned more than one yacht as is evident from the fact that on motion of Mr. Beck it was decided that no member could enter more than one yacht in the regatta.