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Framed history of the Potomac Boat Club dating from the Club's 60th birthday celebrations in 1929

I am a Senior Member of the Potomac boat club, founded in 1869, and am damned proud of it. I really don't know that much about the club, I am sorry to say. But now, thanks to fellow Senior Member Nicholas Woodfield, I discovered the following "framed history dating from the Club's 60th birthday celebrations in 1929." Enjoy! It's both informative and extremely interesting. Sort of a written time capsule and love letter. Enjoy!

Framed history of the Potomac Boat Club dating from the Club's 60th birthday celebrations in 1929

Me at PBC

At the top staircase leading down from the Ballroom to the bays, there is a framed history dating from the Club's 60th birthday celebrations in 1929. If you have never had the time or opportunity to read it, here it is:

On July 6, 1869, seven men met in an old hostelry in Georgetown, then known as the "Union Hotel" or "Fugitts" and laid the foundation for an organization to which they gave the name Potomac Boat Club. At the time there were but two other such clubs in Washington, the Analostans, the first club organized in Washington after the Civil War, and the Anacostia Boat Club, organized on April 27, 1869, and which had a comparatively short existence.

The formation of the Potomac Boat Club marked an epoch in the history of aquatics in the District of Columbia, for its ranks soon became enlarged and it took up a commanding position with the people of the city, one of which it is maintained to its credit for sixty years. Within a few months of its organization its crews were matching their skill with rival clubs, and its walls and trophy cases now contain many evidences of the superiority of the Red and White through the years. The first race rowed and won by the Potomac was a gig race against an Analostan crew on November 5, 1869. According to the newspaper records of the time, this was the first real race on the Potomac River and was over a three-mile course with a turn from the Aqueduct Bridge down. The Club had its ups and downs in competition, the former during the period of 1883 to 1888, when its crews were invincible, and again just before the World War and the latter when the bicycle craze took hold up to the nineties, which served to deplete the membership to a very small number. The past two or three years have again showing increased interest in the sports which the Club fosters, and today it has on it rolls the largest membership in its history.

The first club house owned by the Potomac was a rough building directed by the members at the foot of Congress Street, now 37th Street in Georgetown. This was replaced in the following year by a larger and more commodious home on the same site, which, in turn, was rebuilt in 1875, and, according to a newspaper sketch written in 1903, was “the model of its kind in America and even today is the envy of many of the rich clubs of the North." At that time (1903), the club “racked seventy-three private crafts, thirty-three of which are the beautiful canoes that are now so popular on the river."

In June, 1908, our present home was dedicated. From time to time, principally since 1920, various improvements have been made: the "board room" has been enlarged; a card room and kitchen have been provided; ladies' retiring rooms, locker rooms and shower room have been added; and we can still proudly say that we have a home “the model of its kind in America." And to make our pride in what we have the greater, we can state that practically all the work incident to the improvements noted above was performed by the membership. Today we "rack" 35 shell-boats of all descriptions, 9 cedar racing canoes, 150 privately-owned canoes, and anchor three motor launches.

The rowing game is perhaps the most arduous of sports, and together with practically every other aquatic club in the country, we must confess a decline in the number of men competing for places in the shells. To offset this fact to some extent, however, we have observed an awakening interest in canoe-racing, and Potomac has not fallen far behind in this endeavor. In 1925, the second year of competition, the canoe crews representing the Club journeyed to Burlington, N.J., and were victorious in eight of the twelve National Championships of the Middle States Canoe Racing Association.. The same season the teams captured six of the National Quarter-Mile championships, held under the auspices of the Middle States Canoe Racing Association at Belmar, New Jersey. The Delaware-Chesapeake Division Championship Races of the American Canoe Association were held by the Club in 1927. While our primary interest is, and always will be, shell-boat racing, many of our members have, in the past few years, taken up the somewhat lighter sport and added materially to our collection of trophies and honors. It is because of this that we have the pleasure at this time of entertaining the Middle States Canoe Racing Association in the holding of their National Championship Regatta.

Along with its athletic activities - which also includes basketball, football, swimming and bowling - the Potomac Boat Club has always fostered the social feature and its dances, oyster roasts, regattas and outings of various kinds have always been affairs to which invitations were much sought.

In the sixty years that have elapsed since 1869, the Club has been prominent in the aquatic circles of the country: crews representing the organization have won trophies on nearly every rowing course in America; many of its numbers have become foremost oarsmen in the collegiate rank; its athletic teams have fought, fairly and honorably, to add to its glory; it has won and maintain a high place in the social activities of the Capital; during the World War ninety percent of its membership gave their services to the Nation and three laid down their lives for their country.

The Potomac Boat Club stands today, as it did in the early days of its existence, for the following principles then enunciated: “The advancement of honest aquatic and other sports, against anything tending toward professionalism, and firm in its support of the National Association of Amateur Oarsman in its efforts to keep the ranks clean and free from all contamination.”

The Potomac Boat Club stands today, as it did in the early days of its existence, for the following principles then enunciated: “The advancement of honest aquatic and other sports, against anything tending toward professionalism, and firm in its support of the National Association of Amateur Oarsman in its efforts to keep the ranks clean and free from all contamination.”

Apr 16, 2020 11:25 AM | Comments (0)
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