Baltimore Yacht Club, on its historic grass knoll atop Sue Island at the mouth of Middle River, is the second of two clubs to have borne that name proudly into many anchorages around the world for nearly a century.
The two clubs are linked by name, by tradition, by common membership, and by basic service to boating in the Chesapeake area. And these links encourage such aims, stated in our Articles of Incorporation, as “…the promotion of boating to make the sport safe, clean, healthful and economic means of recreation.”
Sue Island, a jewel of the upper Chesapeake, has a written history older than the country itself. Originally named “Duke’s Discovery” and patented in 1724 to one Christopher Duke, its commanding location has made it the site of many an adventure of fact and legend, both grim and fantastic over more than two and a half centuries. The crackle of gunfire was not unknown over its surrounding waters, even as late as the days of Prohibition. In earlier years, according to legend, dark nights covered the approach of fast, strange craft bearing cargoes which, storytellers whispered, would have chilled the blood of honest folk on adjacent shores.
Since that time, Sue Island’s history has been, and continues to be an increasingly happy one, with its teeming yacht basin and busy clubhouse acting as centers of pleasure for a large and growing membership. The current day Baltimore Yacht Club began with incorporation in 1939. It originally held meetings at the Middle River Democratic Club until the expanded membership established the Baltimore Yacht Club Holding Corporation, and was able to acquire Sue Island in late 1939.
In the early years, it was the scene of many outings, some commercial, many political. During that time, Sue Island was accessible by water only, with an hourly ferry running across the channel from the mainland to the island. In 1944, the work was begun to build a causeway from the south end of the island to the mainland, and was finally completed in 1945, there after allowing access by automobile.
The installation of slips, piers and docks- and the extensions and additions thereto- is an unending story to which each BYC Commodore adds his chapter of accomplishment. Your own eyes tell more eloquently than mere words the story of these dynamic men and what they have done for BYC. Their monuments are the facilities we use every summer day, and which we too often take for granted.
The original Baltimore Yacht Club was borne at a meeting of prominent yachtsmen of Baltimore City on a crisp October evening in 1891. These were owners of ocean-going steam and sail yachts, men who loved the water and who liked, as we all do today, to be on the dancing waves in their own craft. The membership grew swiftly and within weeks the group bought, as its first home, a ten acre tract on the tip of Sledd’s Point, in Curtis Bay. The acreage eventually became the site of W. R. Grace Chemical.
The BYC of that day operated its own steamer from the city to Curtis Bay. But its history at Curtis Bay was foreshortened by creeping commercialism which overtook the Baltimore waterfront. In 1912, the acreage was sold to the Davison Company and the club leased a 500 foot pier from the MacLean Contracting Company of Locust Point, building a clubhouse at the end of the pier which extended out over the water. Opening of the new clubhouse in June 1912 was a gala event with over 1,000 persons in attendance and a full fleet of fine pleasure craft anchored or moored nearby.
BYC settled there for a long stay, but the advent of war in 1917 caused another change of residence. In April, 1917, the leased area where the clubhouse and piers were situated was sold to the Baltimore Drydock and Shipping Company and the club was offered inducements to give up its lease.
So, another “move” was in the wind. And what a move it was! The whole clubhouse was hoisted off its pilings and onto scows, which were towed to the foot of Light Street. There the clubhouse was moved ashore and set up on acreage bought from the Winans estate; however, though planted on its own land, the club was entering a closing phase. In 1923 the clubhouse was sold to the owners of the Hotel Emerson, which reserved it for club members until 1925, and thereafter ran it as a hotel until fire destroyed the building. By 1930 the old BYC had been dissolved, to lie dormant until its rebirth in the Articles of 1939 and its rebuilding on beautiful Sue Island.
These few paragraphs provide a short and exciting history of BYC which may, one day be written into a full volume. The most exciting years however, lie ahead; the greatest strides are yet to be made, and the best accomplishments of BYC will come in the bright future that is being built upon the traditions we are now establishing.