A Proud Past
It was in the early 1880’s when a group of young men, residing in Manhattan, who shared in common love of the water and boating, pooled their resources and purchased a rowboat which they transported to the Harlem River on a milk wagon. Equipped with a sail, the boat provided great sport for the handful of members during their weekends. In due course the group was enlarged, additional sail boats were purchased and an empty store was rented in the vicinity of 125th Street where members held periodic meetings.
They did not feel like real yachtsmen, however, until they hired the good sloop “Sea Bird”, commanded by Captain Fred Short, for cruises “down the Sound”. On one of these cruises a strong northeaster compelled them to seek shelter in Cow Bay (now Manhasset Bay), and anchored nearby was the dismantled ferry boat “Gerard Stuyvesant”, pride of the East River in its day. “That boat would make an ideal clubhouse”, one of the boys remarked. The others agreed and so did Captain Short. This spontaneous enthusiasm was quickly translated into action, the boat was purchased and towed to Port Morris where it was beached at the head of the creek, and thus the Stuyvesant Yacht Club came into being.
Our Charter of Incorporation is dated April 27, 1890, making Stuyvesant Yacht Club one of the 10 oldest clubs in the New York area.
June 15, 1904
While located on the east river the SYC gained its claim to fame with the fire and sinking of the excursion steamship Slocum, on June 15, 1904 when the General Slocum loaded 1,300 New Yorkers from the Lower East Side to take them to a picnic at Locust Grove on the Long Island Sound. As the ship steamed up the East River, a fire broke out in the boiler room. As the fire worsened, the captain of the ship beached it on North Brother Island.
Immediately, small boats and people from the Bronx side of the East River along with members of the staff at the sanatorium on North Brother Island began a rescue operation. Unfortunately, due to rotting life jackets and insufficient life rafts, the vast majority of the people on board the ship died. The members of SYC played a major role in saving many passengers, unfortunately hundreds perished on that sad day.
After some years on the east river, and a period of great growth for us, it was necessary to seek larger quarters. Thus the move to Jack’s Rock in Pelham Bay. We made a nice home there with a lovely club house, a dual railway, and enough room for over 100 vessels. Alas this would not be for long. In 1934, the City of New York decided to build Orchard Beach, and while they did not use our land for some years, building only the east half of the present facility, the City condemned the total area for future use. Once again SYC was on the move. But to where?
With almost no money, (we did not own the land at Pelham Bay—so no “buyout”), and a not-so-good economy there was little we could do. Gus Gallowitz’s father stepped up to the bat, and purchased a little used coal yard at the end of Centre Street, sill in the Bronx but closer to the “mainland”, on a small island called City Island. He then turned the land over to SYC in return for payment over a few years.
The “new clubhouse” was a canvas tent with a wood floor, but it was home. In the next year the grounds were extended and a new wooden bulkhead was built, doubling the size of the property. A railway system was installed, to haul and launch vessels, and a proper clubhouse was built. That was a lot of work in the after days of the great depression. As the charter name implies, “a membership club”, most of the work was done by the membership itself. When more ambitious work was undertaken, during this same time, a bonded loan of $30,000 was taken out to cover the work. Over the years many improvements have been made, the Summer House, the Travel-Lift and Transfer Car, and unfortunately with the fire that destroyed our clubhouse on February 26, 1968, the building of our present clubhouse.