Middlesex Yacht Club
A Consolidated History
Middlesex Yacht Club was founded in 1896 and is as vibrant as ever!
The Mattabesset Canoe Club was organized January 7, 1896 by a group of canoe enthusiasts and what became of that is now The Middlesex Yacht Club. The first location was on land owned by the Davis family at the foot of College Street on the Connecticut River in Middletown. A clubhouse was built there at a cost of $400.00 and rented on a three-year lease of $80.00 a year.
The initiation fee was $5.00, active dues $8.00, and associate dues $5.00. Only active members could hold office, had to have a boat, and live within a six-mile radius of the Club.
According to an article in the May 4, 1901 Penny Press (the forerunner to the Middletown Press), the object of the club was “to promote the social and intellectual welfare of its members, to encourage canoe yacht and aquatic sports canoe and yacht building and to promote the cultivation of naval sciences”.
Per a 1903 document, the vessels registered to the club included over forty canoes, but also nearly twenty steam or gas powered yachts. There were only a handful of sailboats.
In February 1905, the Club’s name was changed to “The Middletown Yacht Club”, to reflect the change in the types of boats members owned. A year later the Club bought the Clubhouse with a sizeable piece of land for $5,700.00.
In addition to encouraging leisure boating, MYC served as a major social hub for Middletown in the early twentieth century. The Penny Press is full of reports about the annual banquets and other activities hosted by the club. Not surprisingly, these were male dominated affairs. The departure of the club from Middletown left a gaping hole in the social life of the town.
In 1906 membership exploded to 216 members.
The Rudder Magazine sponsored the first long distance race to Huntington, L.I. starting at our Club on September 16, 1911.
In 1913, MYC was the biggest yacht club in Connecticut with 300 members. Power boats easily outnumbered canoes. By then, one of the big attractions was the annual power boat race along the Connecticut River and long island sound, in which the Middletown contingent played the principle organizing role.
We were fast outgrowing our club facilities and after much planning we commissioned a new clubhouse (now the site of the Canoe Club Restaurant) on May 30, 1916.
During World War I, Commodore T.M. Russell Jr., organized patrols on the river to be performed by the club’s membership. Six boats and fifty men were assigned regular patrols to protect the city of Middletown.
MYC held the largest boat race in the East on June 30, 1923, attracting participants from all over, including many famous boating enthusiasts. Outboard races began at MYC on August 28, 1928 and various outboard associations held their races at our club for a number of years.
Women began competing in the yacht club races in 1929, and in 1930 the club was host to the National Outboard Championships.
In May 1945 T.M. Russell, Jr. found a piece of property in Maromas for our third clubhouse. We built a smaller clubhouse here. This location was nearer to the Sound, more private, and the flooding did not bother us as much. The winds in the area were ideal for small sailboat races, and several classes were raced.
In 1947, dues were raised to $25.00 active, and $15.00 associate. The Club was planning boat slips in 1954, when we were notified that our property was being taken over by the government for a new atomic laboratory. By 1957 we made a settlement with the government in which they bought the property for $32,125 and we bought back the building at the salvage cost of $400.00. We then floated the material we needed down the river to our new location in Chester, and used the materials for our new club, which we purchased for $31,000.00. An additional amount of $25,000.00 for renovations was raised by 3% debenture bonds. In 1959, the marina was built and slips rented. Again the dues were raised, this time to $50.00.
Improvements continued. The swimming pool was built in the late 1960s; the ballroom was enlarged; grounds improved; marina improved; clubhouse remodeled inside and out, including a new addition for the galley and remodeled restrooms. In the mid 1990s a major dock renovation started with “B” dock in the basin area. Later that century, “A” dock basin and river were restored.
In 1988, the first female Commodore, Vicki L. Rawski took the helm of MYC.
In 1998, a vote was taken to change the name to the “Middlesex Yacht Club” a change that more accurately identifies the club’s community it serves. In 2002, club facilities improved with the pool house renovation and “B” floating dock. In 2012, air conditioning was added to the ballroom and a generator was installed to supply power to the entire house. In 2013, we continued to improve MYC replacing the pool house, stewards shed and having the pool resurfaced. In 2018, the front porch of the house was rebuilt.
In 2020, we will commission the club for the 125th time. This year will challenge the club, due to the COVID-19 virus and its implications. The club has had to use “Zoom” for meetings, and add additional rules for the members regarding social distancing. Challenges like this virus, will make us stronger as a community.
MYC has a very rich history to be proud of.
Carin M. Mancini, P.C.
(previously authored by John Stellenwerf, Club Historian in 2016)