CYC was formed on October 19, 1892 by nine yachtsmen who met on the naphtha-powered launch ALERT in order to hire a watchman to keep an eye on their vessels anchored in the newly formed Washington Channel. This was not long after the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) had begun a massive dredging project that created East Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin and created many of the features of the SW Washington Waterfront that we are familiar with today. The SW Waterfront, known as the “sixth Street Wharf” since the time of the Civil War, was a working seaport, with fish wharfs, municipal piers for tobacco and farm produce, numerous ice and coal docks, towing companies and coastal steamship wharfs projecting into the Channel.
CYC’s first facility was converted from a coal scow to a two level clubhouse known as THE ARK that was moored on the Washington Channel at the foot of ninth street beginning in 1894. By 1900 the club had grown to 30 members and leased property at 700 Water Street where they built a 1 ½ story wooden building. The club continued to grow, and in 1922 CYC moved into a new clubhouse near 9th street. This building was a classic yacht club with peaked roof, cupola and second story balcony. CYC facilities at this time also included a marine railway!
From its inception, CYC was heavily involved with racing. Several regattas were held each year and CYC was a charter member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association (CBYRA) that began informally in 1906 and was incorporated in 1910. Racing was occasionally interrupted by war, but little else had any effect.
There was some effort in the 1940’s by the ACOE to develop the SW Waterfront, and CYC was able to lease the newly built yacht basin number 2 in 1942. This gave CYC 82 berths and some additional space for small boats. To promote further development, Congress created the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) in 1945 which had a major part in changing SW DC. Changes to the SW Waterfront began in 1960 when Public Law 86-736 transferred ownership of the SW waterfront to the RLA. Early development plans put CYC at great risk because they called for the removal of all CYC facilities. The new plan created a continuous seawall and promenade. Unfortunately, this meant filling in most of yacht basin number 2. This reduced the CYC dock facilities from 82 to 58 slips in 1967. CYC membership declined considerably since there appeared to be no future for the club.
In 1967 Public Law 90-176 provided CYC and other waterfront businesses a chance to continue operation and allowed the existing waterfront businesses a chance to participate in the planned redevelopment.
By 1969 CYC membership had dwindled to only 17 participants. In May of 1969 the classic CYC clubhouse and home for 47 years was torn down. Fortunately, the first of the new CYC riparian leases was signed in June of 1969 and the lease for a shore-side parcel of land on which to build a new clubhouse was secured in 1970. The new clubhouse was completed in 1973 and interest in CYC membership gradually revived with the prospect of having a restaurant and a Clubhouse.
By 1980 there were 110 active and life members and 600 associate members, many of whom only patronized the restaurant. Unfortunately, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was planning to build a new subway tunnel for the Yellow Line directly below the CYC docks. This required CYC members to move their vessels temporarily to a neighboring marina while the old docks were removed and the metro tunnel completed. Fortunately, WMATA also installed new docks with approximately 79 slips and the CYC fleet was able to return beginning in October 1982.
1984 marked both the first CYC Police/Fire fighter picnic and the first time the second floor of the clubhouse was leased to a public restaurant. Le Rivage operated on the second floor for 18 years. A new tenant Jenny’s Asian Fusion Restaurant and Lounge, replaced Le Rivage in 2003 and operated until 2015.
CYC continues to grow as an active part of the SW Waterfront community with a membership of approximately 131 active, 17 associate, 10 community 27 life, and 10 cruising members. In past years, CYC has hosted numerous Easter Seals Cruises for Kids, Patriot’s Picnics for wounded veterans, and the Leukemia Cup Regatta activities. CYC makes its facilities available to the USCG Auxiliary, National Maritime Heritage Foundation and other community groups.
In 2002 the DC City Council formally recognized CYC for its 110th year of “preservation and progress for America’s National Waterfront and its long standing service and participation in the SW Waterfront community.”
Redevelopment of the waterfront area began summer of 2014. The SW waterfront area is now named The WHARF honoring its historic designation by generations of Washingtonians. CYC members are once again working with developers and the District of Columbia with the hope of preserving the past while creating a ‘true urban destination where maritime activity and commerce mix with culture and housing to create a vibrant waterfront community.’
The WHARF will stretch across 27 acres of land and 24 acres of water from the Municipal Fish Market to Fort McNair. When complete it will ‘feature approximately three million square feet of new retail, residential, office, hotel, cultural and public use areas (over 55% of the area) including waterfront parks, promenades, piers, and docks accommodating 400-500 slips. Phase I is expected to be completed in 2017.
Updated July, 2015 --LP--