A Brief History of The Hull Yacht Club
In the Spring of 1880, thirteen Hull summer residents, who owned and raced small sailboats, met and decided to form a yacht club. The Hull Yacht Club was founded on June 26 th, 1880. W.B Lambert was elected the first commodore and held that office for three years. During the first two seasons there was no club house, sailing events were run from a private pier and dock and meetings were held at members homes. Even though they started with no club house, being close to Boston with plenty of deep, protected water, drew many new members. The Hull Yacht Club was incorporated two years later, April 20 th, 1882 and had grown to 128 members.
In 1882, Hull YC leadership worked out a deal with the Hingham- Nantasket Steamship authority. A pier and facility was built that would accommodate both steamship traffic and also act as the first Hull YC club house. The facility was completed on June 15 th 1882. The Hull Yacht Club used the second story, which had a ballroom, stage, and a wide piazza on three sides. The location and new facility was an immediate draw as membership soared to 405 in 1883. Wealthy businessmen were looking for alternatives to Boston; Hull and Marblehead were the most popular choices. According to Outing Magazine, from 1883 to 1889 Hull Yacht club was one of the most active clubs in America. Each summer the Hull YC hosted no less than six open regattas, some were the largest open regattas run on the East Coast at that time. It was common to have $1000 in cash prices and greater than 200 vessels entered.
Hull Yacht Club had a philosophy similar to the Seawanaka YC in New York, which was a ‘Corinthian’ or ‘amateur’ yacht club. Members with small vessels were allowed entry and owners were encouraged to raced their own boats rather than hiring skippers. Hull Yacht Club took an active role in promoting racing rules. In 1883, Peleg Aborn, Secretary of the Hull YC, was a leader in the movement to create a national yacht racing association. The move was well supported by active Corinthian sailors and small boat sailors, but was not supported by the large established clubs like the NYYC, and the Eastern YC. It took many years but eventually a national organization was created which evolved into what is now US Sailing.
The Hull Yacht Club boasted a membership that included the many affluent and influential names in Boston: Melvin Ohio Adams, Lizzie Borden’s defense attorney; Albert A. Pope, the father of American bicycling; Harry Converse, founder of the Boston Rubber Shoe Manufacturing Company; Charles Lauriat, the bookseller; William Weld, the shipping magnate; Dr. Francis Brown II, the founder of Boston’s Children’s Hospital; Dr. Myles Standish, the ophthalmologist and direct descendant of the military leader of Plymouth Colony; and Charles Francis Adams II, Americas Cup Skipper and US Secretary of the Navy, to name a few.
During the 1880’s Boston became the hub of boat design and racing. Boston builders, designers, and sailors built and won the America’s Cub for 3 straight years with Puritan, Mayflower, and Volunteer. Hull YC like other important clubs followed the cup closely and was involved. Puritan was financed by nine Boston businessmen including two from the Hull YC, William Weld and Auguster Hemenway.
By the end of the 1880’s members determined that they needed a new facility. The second Hull Yacht Club was completed in May 1891. The New York Times and Outing Magazine describe the new club as one of the grandest yacht clubs in America. The main club house was four stories, with a 12 foot wide piazza on three sides, the top floor dance hall, had a 20’ x10’ stage, The third floor had billiard rooms and public and private dinning, committee room, reading room, wine room, The second floor housed three bowling alleys, and the first floor had lockers, showers, laundry, spar storage. Floats extend out 250’. In addition to the main building the club added three additional houses with 38 rooms used as housing for visiting yachtsmen.
In 1891 Hull Yacht Club set its annual dues at $15 with an initiation fee of $20. For comparison, the Boston YC annual dues were $10, with initiation $20, and NYYC annual dues were $25, with initiation $50
In 1890 The Hull Yacht Club formed the Hull Corinthian Yacht Club. This club was made up of juvenile yachtsmen and owners of boats of the smaller classes. During the first year there were an estimated eighty members and 30 vessels. The Hull Corinthian YC leased the original Hull YC for their Club house. The first commodore was H. O. Stetson. Membership was set at $1 and the initiation fee $1.
In 1899 the Hull Yacht Club Acquired the Massachusetts Yacht Club which was the original Dorchester Yacht Club. The Massachusetts YC had a four story building at Rowes Wharf in Boston as well as a club house in Dorchester. Hull YC Members now had outstanding facilities in both Hull and Boston. The burgee remained the same, but the name was now often referred to as the Hull-Massachusetts Yacht Club.
In 1899 a group of members acquired several acres at the end of Hull overlooking Boston Light and Boston. A 2,429 yard, nine hole golf course was built and was available to club members.Click HERE for more historic images from this time – courtesy of historicnewengland.org
In 1901 Hull YC member Thomas Lawson single handily set out to revive Boston’s participation in the Americas cup by funding the building the defender INDEPENDENCE. Lawson hired B.B. Crowninshield, a well know Boston small boat designer. Crowninshield had been very successfully in designing some of the fastest small boats on the east coast. His specialty was Scow designs. It was his first attempt at building a vessel of this magnitude. INDEPENDENCE was a radical design with a very flat scow like hull and a balanced rudder typically used in small boats. The length was 140’10”, Draft 20’ and a Beam of 24’. The builder was George Lawley of East Boston. The vessel was launched in May of 1901.
The NYYC contracted with Herreshoff to design and build a defender, CONSTITUTION. During the summer of 1901, INDEPENDENCE had 6 trial races with CONSTITUTION and the previous defender COLUMBIA. INDEPENDENCE had mediocre results. Lawson had her dismantled just six months after launching.
The Boston Yacht Club merged with the Hull-Massachusetts Yacht Club in February of 1903. The Hull-Massachusetts YC contributed approximately 425 members and Boston 300. The merger resulted in the creation of one of the largest clubs in America. Terms of the agreement include; Hull membership agreed to change the name to the Boston YC, Boston YC members agreed to change their ‘colors’ burgee to the Hull YC Burgee. The Boston YC now had five stations, City Point (the original BYC), Hull, Marblehead (the new BYC), Rowes Wharf, and Dorchester. In 1904 the club members agreed that they did not like either the old Boston YC burgee or Hull YC burgee so a committee was formed to propose a new Boston YC Burgee.
In 1914 Charles F Adams II who grew up as a youth sailing at the Hull YC became the first ‘Amateur’ Americas Cup Skipper. Adams successfully sailed RESOLUTE to a victory over SHAMROCK IV.
In 1924 what is believed to be the first Women’s Championship in the world, certainly in North America, was sailed at the Hull Station of the Boston YC. Teams of 2 women sailed in 14’ Marconi rigged cat boats. The winner received the Hodder Cup, donated by Rear Commodore James R Hodder. By 1928 this cup was retired and Charles F. Adams donated a new cup, the Adams Cup in honor of his mother. The Adams Cup is still awarded today by US Sailing to the top US Women’s Team
Membership dwindled during the Depression. The great building, after being sold to private investors for speculation as a hotel, was deemed a fire hazard and dismantled in the mid-1930’s. The present Club was incorporated on February 23, 1932 and was founded by Commodore William T. Hall. Meetings were held in a local church and access to the water was from privately owned docks along Cadish Avenue. In 1937, a year after Fitzpatrick Way had been built on top of the old railroad bed, Clarence Nickerson, Chairman of the Board of Selectman, and Andrew St. George, proposed the building of a causeway along the present site of the Yacht Club, the Saltwater Club and Town Pier; the placing of rip-rap to protect it and the filling of the area between the causeway and Fitzpatrick Way with the dredging of Allerton Harbor. This project was not totally completed until 1949. In 1939, a W.P.A. project was approved to move the former “Old Beacon Club” from Holbrook Avenue on Allerton Hill to its present location at Mariners Park.
The Hull Yacht Club has a long history of sailing and racing (including an “almost” entry in the America’s Cup). By the mid-Forties, there was movement at the Club away from handicap racing toward one-design racing. In 1945, there were fourteen Lawley 14’s and six Lawley 110’s. The first Turnabout appeared in the early Fifties and by the mid- sixties, the Hull Fleet had grown to include thirty six Turnabouts, ten 110’s, six Ensigns and three 210’s. Later on, the Club went through a transition back toward handicap racing and cruising memberships. Lately, a growing fleet of Rhodes19’s has brought more one-design racing back to the club. The 110’s and N-10’s are holding their own still and the junior sailing fleet has added lasers and 420’s and Optimists to it’s roster.
In 1999, Hull Yacht club received the Leonard M. Fowle Jr. award from the Mass bay Sailing Association as the best yacht club of the year for its promotion of sailing events in the area. The yacht club hosts several sailing events during each season. These range from junior sailing events to One-Design and PHRF. Some recent events of note being the 1998 & 2003 Mass Bay Junior Olympics and co-hosts of the Rhodes19 Nationals in 2001 (with Hingham YC) and the 2009 Rhodes19 East Coast Championship. The club also hosts its signature event, the annual “Great Chase Race”; a PHRF pursuit race that attracts over 100 boats of all types and sizes each September. It has grown into one of the largest races in the Mass Bay area.