While the Club’s website suggests it formed in 1913, the January 20, 1897 issue of Pacific Commercial Advertiser noted, “The past week has recorded another innovation in Hilo the organization of the Hilo Yacht Club …”
It will “aim to encourage aquatic sports and athletics. The initiatory meeting was held on Saturday evening, the 9th (1897)… Within five days the membership roll included 75 names…”
The original site of the Club was the CC Kennedy home built before 1900 and situated near Reeds Bay. The Club maintained a small boat house and several boats to support the lively interest in competitive rowing. During the early years the Club entered rowing competitions in both Hilo and Honolulu against Honolulu rowing crews.
By 1919 the growth and success of the Club prompted members to begin a drive to replace the Kennedy house. Likewise, members concerned with the potential liability from the Club’s indebtedness wanted the protection of the corporation and incorporation was accomplished on December 18, 1919.
Then, expansion took place.
“Architect Davis of the firm Ripley & Davis is preparing plans for the Hilo Yacht Club building, which is to be erected on the Cocoanut Island side of the Hilo Wharf. There is much enthusiasm among the members of the newly formed club and all are anxious to get into their club quarters.” (Star-bulletin, August 16, 1913)
On September 10, 1937 the Yacht Club’s lease came up for renewal. Charles C Pietsch, a prominent Honolulu realtor, outbid the Yacht Club trustees after spirited bidding.
The Inter-Island Steamship Company, the Hilo Hotel and Doris Duke Cromwell were among the possible interested parties.
By April 1938, the community learned that a group of Hilo businessmen headed by Senator WH “Doc” Hill, a Yacht Club member, was negotiating a lease from Pietsch for the purpose of building the Naniloa Hotel.
Having lost the lease, the Hilo Yacht Club, in 1939, moved, again, relocated and renovated the Keaukaha home of Frank Harlocker, on 2.84-acres. (Wilson)
Frank Arakawa, county architect, was hired to draw up plans and specifications for a combination dance pavilion and badminton court, a bar room, alterations to the former Harlocker home and a swimming pool and bathhouse.
The Clubhouse included the new pavilion and the former Harlocker home. The remodeled home included a reception room, dining room, kitchen, ladies’ dressing room, and men’s smoking room.
In 1939 the Club membership included: 106-resident members, 21-lady members, two-junior members, four-life members, one-honorary member and 66-nonresident members.
Just before 7 am on April 1, 1946 a devastating tsunami hit the Island of Hawaiʻi; the water rose up to the level of the steps. Staff was able to escape by the back roads the tsunami washed away all buildings on the site of the Yacht Club.
A bathhouse was quickly rebuilt at the swimming pool, and by July the swimming pool was reopened. The Clubhouse was not so easily restored. The Yacht Club made arrangements with the Girl Scouts to use their clubhouse (until 1949 when the present clubhouse was completed.)
I recently attended a function at the Hilo Yacht Club; unlike prior days (with a ‘boathouse’ and ‘several boats,’) there were no boats in sight.
It seems the mission of organizing a ‘social club’ promoting ‘other’ pastimes is being fulfilled.
The club website notes, “The recreational focal point of the Club is the spacious ocean view pool enjoyed throughout the year. For those who prefer outdoor sports, the club maintains three tennis courts, a black sand volleyball court and a new Fitness Center.”
A recent Club newsletter notes current membership includes: 511-resident members, 38-allied members, 20-honorary members and 55-nonresident members (624-total.) (Lots of information and images from Hilo Yacht Club.)