The Kenosha Yacht Club is one of the oldest organizations in Kenosha and was originally chartered in 1912. According to the best records that can be found, the first commodore was Buck Ferry.
In February of 1918, a Mr. Peterson deeded all the land south of the Coast Guard headquarters and east to the lakeshore to the KYC. A building formerly used by the Jackson Lumber co. was sold to the KYC and moved to the site to serve as headquarters. However, in April of 1921 the land was returned to Mr. Peterson who lost it to the City of Kenosha in November of that year.
Little is known of the KYC from 1921 until 1932 when it was incorporated under Commodore Alex Werner. He remained commodore for that year and then was re-elected for the years 1940 through 1943, the year the Club was re-chartered.
From 1932 through 1946 the Club met in the old Morgan Boat House. This building was erected in the early 1900s to serve as the Lake Michigan Base for M.P. Morgan’s steam yachts. But suddenly, in 1946 the Club was evicted from the boathouse and the building was to be torn down to make room for additional coal docks. After getting an extension of time, a Club committee negotiated with the city for the site where the Club stands today. They received a 20 year lease from the city and planed to move the boathouse to the site. However, before this could be accomplished, the boathouse burned down.
This was not such a bad thing since the insurance company paid the Club $1800.00 for the boathouse. The KYC was given until April of 1947 to tear down and remove the old building. Throughout the winter of ’46 the members managed to dismantle and save a large amount of lumber from the old boathouse. This lumber was moved to the new site in preparation for the new clubhouse.
In May of 1947 the footings for the new clubhouse were poured and reconstruction began. With the help of the insurance money, walls, a roof, and a few permanent doors were added. A contractor erected the concrete blocks, but Club members did much of the work themselves. It was a long process since it was necessary to complete the building piecemeal. As a few dollars were gathered, special meetings were called to determine what improvements deserved first consideration. The taproom, of course, came first as it would help bring in much needed money. The Club did not keep a record of the members who put forth so much effort to create on of the finest clubs on Lake Michigan, but much of the credit goes to Nels Nelson and Earl Nehls. They were the carpenter contractors who supervised and worked on the project.
In 1952 the Club purchased a stiff leg derrick which allowed the storing of boats on the Club grounds. Membership grew, as did the fleet.
During 1965, under the leadership of Commodore Cleve Ward, major changes were made at the Club. The changes included a new entrance and foyer, a completely new galley, a remodeled dining room (with air conditioning!), and relocation of the heads. All this was made possible by negotiating a long term lease extension from the city. Members were assessed $25.00 and dues were raised to $50.00 per year. New members were required to donate $75.00 to the building fund. Many members took an active part in this reconstruction, and to them we owe our thanks.
Many other changes have occurred since then. The flagpole and plaque were installed during 1071-1972 under the leadership of Commodore Ed Werner. The bar, previously in the shape of a boat’s flaring bow and located in the middle of the clubhouse was replaced in 1972-1973 with the bar that exists today. The folding partitions replaced a permanent wall in 1975-1976 and the dance floor was installed. Thanks to member’s donations, a new roof and lighting were installed in 1977-1978. In 1984 a gable roof was installed, replacing the flat roof that had caused much trouble.
Many thanks should be given to the Ladies Auxiliary, past Commodores and board members, and to the many Club members who made this Club great. Also thanks to the sailing fleet that brought us the trophies that appear in the case today.
As we can see from our history, the Kenosha Yacht Club exists today thanks to the dedication of its members.
The Ladies Auxiliary began in the mid forties, sometime after the Club moved to its present location. Since women were not allowed to be members at that time, it was something like having their own club within the Club. The women would accompany their husbands when they came for membership meetings, but then would have their own meetings upstairs. In those days, the ladies even needed their husbands’ permission to join the Auxiliary. At its peak, the Auxiliary had around 50 members and, truth be told, these women were the backbone of the Club.
They organized parties for all occasions and events. Christmas parties for the children of Club members complete with Santa arriving by a U.S. Coast Guard boat.They held fundraisers that raised money for everything from curtains for the clubhouse to donations to charities.
They fed their men dinner after each membership meeting. They organized monthly bowling events during the winter and Kentucky Derby parties complete with mint juleps in the spring. They had their own softball team, the KYC Admirals (very appropriate). They were sailors and they were power boaters.
But mostly, they had fun! Within their meetings they planned many activities, but they also enjoyed themselves. Playing games, (not sure what’s going on with all those shoes) and just having time to spend with other women who also enjoyed boating.
As with most clubs however, the segregation of the sexes came to an end. In the late nineteen eighties, one of the women proclaimed that she too was a member and wanted to attend regular membership meetings. That moment marked the beginning of the end for the Ladies Auxiliary, but it also signaled a new beginning for the Club.