Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Schenectady Boat Club

Postcard of Schenectady Boat Club clubhouse on the Scotia side of the Mohawk River, opposite present-day Riverside Park, ca. 1910. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Postcard Collection.

"The vigor of manhood which has guided the club's activities during eight years of unfailing success is unabating and as succeeding years find new faces in its executive councils and wearing its insignia in athletic events, the same daring and unconquered spirit of their predecessors is dominant."
         -- The Periscope v. 1, n. 1 (December 1915)

As spring turns to summer, more and more boats can be seen traveling along the Mohawk River near our library in Schenectady's Stockade neighborhood. In a salute to the spirit of the season, we are featuring some images related to the Schenectady Boat Club.

These images from The Periscope showcase events at the Schenectady Boat Club's annual regatta. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The Schenectady Boat Club was first established after a general interest meeting in 1907. The group originally met in the old city pumping station in present-day Riverside Park, on the Schenectady side of the river. They soon raised $15,000 to purchase and and build a clubhouse. By 1909, the Boat Club had erected its clubhouse on the Scotia side of the Mohawk, located just a few hundred feet east of the bridge that ran from the foot of Washington Avenue in Schenectady to Scotia. The spacious two-story clubhouse included offices, a meeting room, lounge and pool room, showers, restrooms, and lockers on the first floor, while the second floor was a large ballroom used for dinners and dances. Fireplaces, a victrola and piano, and places to play cards provided a convivial atmosphere. The club's grounds also included a dock and a boat storage shed. Within a few years tennis courts and a rifle range were added to the grounds.

Officers of the Schenectady Boat Club in 1920. Front row, left to right: Noel E. Bensinger (Treasurer), Winfield D. Bearse (Vice President), Walden D. Brough (President), Floyd T. Smith (Secretary), Donald K. Frost (Captain). Back row, left to right: John W. Randall, Guy M. Jones, J. Wiggins Collamer, Stuart J. Knight, Charles A. Simon, Eugene Johnson. Image from Larry Hart Collection.

The cover of the constitution and by-laws of the Schenectady Boat Club. The cover features an image of the club's official flag. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Although the primary purpose of the Schenectady Boat Club was devoted to boat recreation -- including motorboating, canoeing and canoe sailing, river cruising, inter-club competitions and their annual regattas -- the club offered plenty of other social, athletic, and recreational opportunities, including suppers, lectures, smokers, dances, ski trips, automobile cruises, and card tournaments. Members of the club organized their own tennis and bowling leagues, went swimming and ice-skating, and opted to create a golf course on their property in 1922. With the addition of the golf course, membership increased from 300 to 500, and the focus switched from boating to a general country club. In accordance, the Schenectady Boat Club changed its name to Schenectady Country Club in January 1925.

This fanciful vision of the Schenectady Boat Club's future on the Mohawk River is depicted in a cartoon that appeared in The Periscope, the newsletter of the Boat Club, in 1916. The Grems-Doolittle library holds a run of The Periscope from the inaugural issue in December 1915 through the February 1926 issue. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

In 1978, only the foundation of the old Schenectady Boat Club clubhouse was still in existence. The building was razed after a fire in 1941. Harold N. Hyde, a former member of the Schenectady Boat Club, lays his hands on the remains of the foundation. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

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