Eastern Power Boat Club was organized in 1905 by W. A. Mills, L. J. Johnston, and Monty Williams at the dawn of the internal combustion engine with a mission to “Advance the sport of motor boating in its broadest sense, to promote social intercourse, and to provide a suitable Club House and anchorage for the use of its members.”
Of the many power boat clubs founded around the turn of the century (when power boating and racing was a novel and popular spectator sport), we believe we are the oldest club dedicated to power boating. Our members were active in the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Power Boating Association, and sanctioned races focused on smaller boat racing classes. Our members volunteered at events including the Presidents Cup Races held on the Potomac River starting in 1926 (hosted by Corinthian Yacht Club). CYC was first located on the Potomac by the Long Railroad Bridge (close to present day Columbia Island Marina), in the 1930’s CYC moved to what is now James Creek Marina before relocating to Ridge Maryland in the mid 1960’s.
Photo published in the Washington Times showing the original Club House constructed in 1910 (and replaced in 1912 with the Club House still standing at our current location)
Eastern Power Boat Club’s first official meeting with 19 members present was held on October 3rd, 1910 in Washington DC. Within a year, Eastern officially incorporated in Washington DC on June 6th, 1911.
Microfiche of the first page of Eastern’s articles of incorporation obtained from the District of Columbia in 1957
Below is the “Club Chat” section from the November 1910 Motor Boat Magazine, announcing the organization of Eastern Power Boat Club in the bottom left corner.
Early club members lived close by in Capital Hill or across the river in Anacostia. At the turn of the century, Washington DC waterfronts were industrialized and polluted, with very limited facilities available for recreational motor boating. Rowing and Yacht clubs existed in DC, but they were oriented towards rowing, sailing, or large steam and motor yachts unaccessible to the middle class.
This was a time when internal combustion driven automobiles were just starting to become affordable for the middle class and beginning to replace horses and other forms of transportation. Notably, the first commercially successful outboard engine invented by Ole Evinrude started production in 1909.
Obtaining land and building facilities
To satisfy the founders desire to experiment with the then novelty of motorized boating, early members of Eastern obtained a lease from the War Department at the foot of the 11th street bridge (now part of the Navy Yard). They then developed docks, anchored moorings, and began construction of a wood framed single story clubhouse in 1910. The club grew so quickly that a replacement, two story clubhouse was built in 1912 that still stands today at our current location a short distance upriver.
The club’s original monthly club dues were 50 cents, with mooring costing an additional $1.50 a month. Member rolls grew quickly, with over 50 members by 1911. Early members included both tradesman and office workers, with a large number employed nearby at the Navy Yard. Most members constructed their own boats, requiring great levels of skill, craftsmanship, and labor.
Courtesy of Google Books: See below for a report documenting Eastern’s lease of 93 feet of waterfront from the District of Columbia for $162.75
Regatta’s, parties, and club expansion
There was extensive coverage of Eastern Power Boat Club in the Washington Times, Washington Herald, and Evening Star in the 1910’s through the 1920’s. Power boat racing was a popular spectator sport enjoyed by the local residents of Capital Hill and Anacostia.
This newspaper clipping from the July 27, 1912 edition of The Washington Times, describes plans for a regatta as well as the building of a 30×40 foot two story clubhouse with a loft (still standing today at our current location)
A photo showing an oyster roast in the club’s early days
Due to expansion of the Navy yard during World War One, Eastern was forced to move to the opposite bank of the Anacostia River, just east of the 11th Street bridge in 1919. The clubhouse was floated across the river and new docks were constructed. As reported below in the Washington Herald on June 1, 1919 below:
The second club location was short lived. Channel dredging and land reclamation of mud flats by the Army Corp of Engineers to build what is now Anacostia Park forced the club to move across the river once more in 1920 to the one acre parcel we currently occupy on Historic Boathouse Row. It was at our third and current location, that Eastern finally had the space to build a marine railway and permanent docks that have served the club for over 100 years!
Turn of the century winch still in use as part of our marine railway