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July 10, 1886: The Birth of the Duluth Boat Club

On this day in Duluth in 1886, eleven of the Zenith City’s sailing and rowing enthusiasts organized the Duluth Boat Club. By the year’s end their membership had grown to 28. The next year they built a clubhouse on Slip #1 in the harbor, located between Sixth and Seventh Avenues West, roughly where the stage of Bayfront Festival Park stands today. Designed by charter Boat Club member Charles M. McMillen, the boat house stood three stories tall and was wrapped with verandas on its second and third stories; a square tower adorned one corner. By 1895 the Boat Club boasted 193 members who enjoyed access to a fleet of fifteen rowing shells and more than twenty pleasure boats. By the turn of the century, membership growth and the club’s inconvenient location adjacent to the canal’s shipping lanes (shipping traffic and Boat Club activities often interfered with one another) forced the organization to find a new location. At the same time, Duluth had finally won approval to build a bridge over the ship canal. Since the bridge would give members easy access to Minnesota Point, Boat Club officers chose a site on the bay side of Minnesota Point at Tenth Street and St. Louis Avenue, building a new facility designed by John J. Wangenstein in 1903. The original Boat Club was demolished sometime after the second clubhouse opened. There is considerably more to the history of the Boat Club, and you can read much of it here.

The 1887 Duluth Boat Club. (Image: DuluthPublic Library)oat