Founded shortly after the Civil War, the Detroit Yacht Club (DYC) has served as host to Presidents of the United States, local Statesmen and Royalty. It has remained viable through the Great Depression while serving five generations of members and families. The health and vitality of the DYC is evident in the beautifully restored 1920s Mediterranean-style villa that continues to be the largest yacht club in the United States.
A small clubhouse and sailing shed were built at the foot of McDougall Street just south of Jefferson Avenue in the late 1870s. In the early 1880s, dissension tore the club apart concerning the expansion of the club’s social activities. A faction formed the Michigan Yacht Club in 1882. This caused the membership to revitalize the DYC and elect James Skiffington as the Commodore in 1884. A sail racing schedule was introduced and the DYC was here to stay.
The first clubhouse was erected on Belle Isle in 1891 at a cost of $10,000 with an additional $2,000 spent on furnishings. It was destroyed by fire in 1904. A new clubhouse was erected immediately on the ashes of the old clubhouse.
A concrete bridge to Belle Isle opened in 1923, the same year our present $1,000,000 was dedicated. The DYC’s newest home was designed by architect George Mason whose vision was also responsible for Detroit’s Masonic Temple and the Gem Theatre.
The 1920s were golden days for the Detroit Yacht Club. By the end of 1924, membership had reached 3000. Gar Wood brought world class attention to the club with his world speed records in a hydroplane and his Gold Cup victories. Beginning in 1921, the DYC started sponsoring the hydroplane races. During the Great Depression, membership severely dropped and some services were discontinued. The DYC survived this difficult period and began to grow again.
By 1946 the club became debt free with the bonds being paid in full. The women of the club formed the first women’s sailing organization in the country and raced the club’s catboats. During the 1950s, the Grill and River Vista were enlarged. Movie equipment was installed in the ballroom so that theatre quality films could be shown every Sunday evening.
An outdoor Olympic size swimming pool was added in the 1960s along with Club Front and West End Docks. The new docks increased the number of boat wells to over 350. What began as a sailing club in the 1860s has evolved into the jewel of the City. The DYC offers a wide range of activities to insure that there is something for everyone; whether a boater or landlubber, single or married, younger or older. Coming by land or sea, you can rest assured that your fellow members are looking forward to your arrival.