The Point Independence Yacht Club was organized and built by theatrical people and prominent businessmen in 1908 by Thomas DiBarry, Irving C. Hammond, William G. Rowe, Stewart B. McCleod, John R. Herd, Frank S. Murphy, Jere Grady, William F. Brady and Charles A. Marstou. The primary purpose of the club was to establish a meeting place for sailing, boating, and various other social activities.
The first meeting of the club was held in the dining room of the Pine Tree Inn, a neighboring hotel which was in operation until it was destroyed by fire in 1964.
The original officers of the club were: T.D. Barry, Commodore, and principal proponent of the original plan to form the Club: Judge Stuart McLeod, Vice Commodore, who was responsible for all construction and legal work relating to the organization of the Club; Edward Andrews, Secretary; and I.C. Hammond, Treasurer.
The funds necessary to organize the Club were raised within one week when a bond issue of $10,000 was subscribed by Jerry Grady a famous stage actor who along with his equally famous wife, Miss Frankie Carpenter, maintained a summer home in Point Independence. The original Club House was dedicated on July 3, 1909.
Until recent years, sailing and motor boat races were held every Saturday from the Club around Wicketts Island to the Onset Dock and back again.
The Women’s Auxiliary, now called the First mates, was formed and staged many events to make the mortgage payments of the Club. Whist parties were held every Wednesday afternoon and the Club House was filled each time to capacity. Special attention was given to the support of the building because of the number of people that attended the baked bean suppers organized by the women in the early days of the Club.
Transportation of Club members who resided any reasonable distance from Point Independence was a little bit different than it is today. Members who lived on the South Shore would board the train after work and stop at each “exotic” points as Montello, Brockton, Campello, Middleborough, Freetown, Rock City and finally “Onset Junction”. Cards and other games were quite common as a means of passing the time on the train. The weary traveler would then disembark from the train and board the open trolley “Depot Car” for the remainder of his journey which would be down Depot Street to Onset Center, amidst a cloud of dust and whistle crossings, to the Common across from the town dock, across the then wooden Point Independence Bridge. To the top of Seventh Avenue, now called Independence Avenue, a walk down the hill and the weekend was half over!
Minstrel shows were performed at the Club by well-known actors and actresses who formed a colony of summer residents. Many prominent stage personalities participated in these minstrel shows such as Joe Faye, stage manager for Lillian Russell, and his wife Minnie. Collins and Harlan, who introduced and made popular “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, also rehearsed at a cottage in Point Independence.
As the popularity of boating increased, many boats were moored right in front of the Club. The Bay had great depth and was deep enough for the “New Bedford Steamer” to make regular runs to the Onset Town Dock.
The first Club dock was constructed in front of the Club which could be disassembled and stored on shore during the winter months. The task of erecting the dock each spring was under the direction of Lorenzo “Babe” Hackett, who was the Club Steward for over thirty years. A permanent dock was subsequently built.
Due to a series of financial problems, the Club was reincorporated in 1938 and a new series of bonds were issued to members in exchange for stock held by members. Bonds, once again became evidence of ownership interest in the Club.
From 1908 to 1938, no significant damage occurred to the Club property. As a result of the hurricane in 1938, heavy damage was inflicted to Club property. The permanent dock was completely destroyed, the Club House was washed from its foundation and turned so that it was facing Independence Avenue, and a major portion of the fleet was demolished. At the crest of the tide, the water rose almost to the ceiling of the lower deck of the Club House. Within a year, the Club was renovated.
In 1940 Flotilla # 603 of the United States Coast Guard was founded at the Club.This was the first flotilla formed within the first Coast Guard District and became known as the “1st of the 1st”. The original officers were: Commander, Fred C. Browne. Major duties included patrolling the many sail boat races around the Cape and islands. The flotilla consisted of eight boats. Flotilla #603 went on official duty during World War II at Cape Cod Canal Coast Guard Station.
In 1944, a second hurricane hit the Club causing extensive damage. The Club House again was moved off its foundation and heavy damage occurred to the fleet and dock. Bonds were sold to raise money to rebuild the Club facilities.
Club activities flourished in the 1950’s and our 4th of Jul celebrations were second to none. During hurricane “Carol” of 1954 the Club House held its own except for the foundation which was badly undermined. The wooden front porch, which is now concrete construction, was swept away and water damage extensive. Three boats out of approximately sixty in Onset Bay rode out the storm. The dock was again destroyed, this time by the pounding of the boats tied to it. The rebuilding task was started once more. A new dock with more slips and floats was built. The area around the dock was dredged and a bulkhead installed.
In 1957, by refinancing the Club property, vacant land running to Onset Avenue was purchased.
Slips were filled to capacity by the summer of 1960 when another storm came our way. Fortunately, storm warnings were received in sufficient time to vacate slips, and to “wait for the blow”. As a result, damage was relatively light.
During the summer of 1968, a boat named “Tina” ignited at the gas dock totally destroying the dock house. A new dock house with a roof similar to homes on the Islands was constructed.
During 1972 and 1973, the upper deck of the Club was completely renovated with the labor of Club members.
Grandma’s stove and refrigerator were given away to an antique dealer and a modern kitchen was installed during the years 1974 and 1975.
In February 1976, as a result of an unusual northeast storm, the pier leading from the Club House to the dock house was destroyed and restored before the club opening in May, 1976.
1977 was the year that the lower deck of the Club House was renovated once again using the unselfish labor of Club members.
At a bondholder’s meeting in 1978, it was voted to dredge and expand the Club facilities by installing a new gas dock, new slips, at the permanent outer dock, bulkhead, dinghy dock, and new shower at the rear of the Club House. This expansion program required the Club to obtain a mortgage of $125,000 and has proved to be a successful capital investment.
The Club expansion program approved by the members in 1978 which became known as “Expansion 78” was completed in 1981.
Through continued efforts from Club members year after year, the Club has seen many improvements and upgrades.
The Club has had the roof replaced, plus major renovations to the upstairs including new windows and doors, as well as upgrades and improvements to the bar. Our patio and upper deck have new floors and railings.
The field by Onset Avenue has been cleared and seeded. A beautiful nautical fence and gates have been installed.
There are constant repairs and upgrades of plumbing, electrical, monitoring systems (fuel tanks), new fire alarm system, and new lighting. Additionally, a security system with cameras positioned at the docks and ground has been installed.
A recent project was the replacement of the fixed C-Dock with a new state-of-the-art floating dock. Other sections of our docks have been re-built with new and long lasting materials.
Overall, the Club continues to improve, yet maintain its grand looks through the hard work of our members. An example of this was the swift repair of the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Bob in 1990. With our dedication and unselfisness, the club was brought back to what we see today and will continue in the future regardless of any challenge we may face.
Since its inception, the Club like a great ship, has been able to survive wars, storms and financial problems because its members have always responded to the call for help.
Members, both past and present, should truly be proud to say that they have been a part of Point Independence Yacht Club and have helped mold its great history.