A Proud Heritage
The oldest premier yacht club on Lake Michigan, in the scenic heart of McKinley Marina, Milwaukee Yacht Club welcomes passionate boaters and anyone who simply loves the lakeshore lifestyle. We are a year-round destination offering sailing, boating and dining. Also look to MYC as the perfect site for private parties, weddings and business meetings. Or, make it your special place to kick back and relax.
Amenities include our heated pool and spa, outdoor Skylark Bar with lakeside patio, complimentary kayaks and paddle boards and gourmet dining in the main clubhouse overlooking the North anchorage of Milwaukee Harbor. We honor worldwide reciprocity through Yacht Clubs of America and also have a unique shared reciprocity agreement with The University Club of Milwaukee. Most of all, we're a close-knit community in which you will make friends for life.
History of Resilience
The Milwaukee Yacht Club was founded in 1871 on a site North of the Milwaukee River. Incidentally, the channel is the source of the lake water pumped into the Milwaukee River near North Avenue. It is used to flush out the river from time to time.
The ornate circa 1888 building on the other side of Lincoln Memorial Drive, occupied by Colectivo Coffee House, houses the original pump that is still used for that purpose. With only a partial sea wall north of the site and east from McKinley Beach, there was little protection for boats back then, and boaters had to be a hardy lot and more self-reliant than they are now.
The first permanent clubhouse, a stately two-story wood-frame structure, was built on pilings near the channel in 1896. Twenty years later, in 1916 the United States Coast Guard built a lifeboat station on the shoreline across the channel from the Yacht Club. The Coast Guard abandoned its station in 1971.
It was not until the 1920's and 1930's that the outer breakwater protecting all of Milwaukee Bay was built under the leadership of William George Bruce, a founder of the Milwaukee Yacht Club and chairman of the Milwaukee Harbor Commission. Later additions to the breakwater in the 1960's completed the protection for the club and the boat slips in Miwaukee County's McKinley Marina. Throughout this period, the Milwaukee Yacht Club continued to thrive in the face of challenges.
Tested by Fire
The 1896 clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1943 in the depths of World War II. In 1945, a small building made largely of concrete was built on the North end of the Club's grounds and served as the clubhouse until a replacement clubhouse could be built. However, after the war, building costs had risen and a dispute arose over who owned the land: Milwaukee Yacht Club or Milwaukee County.
It took nearly 20 years but the Club and the county resolved the land ownership question. In essence, the county took over the ownership of the land, and agreed to lease the Club the land for 25 years in exchange for the Club's agreement to build a new clubhouse. In 1967, the new clubhouse was built at a cost of $300,000.
It's a two-an -a-half story, 9,500-square-foot brick building containing the Club's main dining room, a smaller dining room for smaller groups, two bars, and a lounge on the top levels overlooking the harbor and Milwaukee's skyline. The lower level contains offices, showers, and restrooms. The old clubhouse now called the Boathouse, houses the office of the dockmaster, a classroom for the Junior Sailing School, event space, plus restrooms, showers and lockers.
Securing the Future
In 1994, two years after the first lease with the county expired, the county and the Club agreed to extend the lease for 25 years and to give the Club an option for another 25 years, allowing the Milwaukee Yacht Club to continue at its present site for 50 years.
Throughout its history, the Club also improved other facilities. In 1939, a 20-ton crane was built on the grounds, giving the Club, for many years, the only emergency heavy-duty crane between Sturgeon Bay and Chicago. The crane is used mainly now for launching and hauling members boats, stepping and removing masts, and race measurement. The Club also installed four small hoists for launching and hauling small boats and installed and maintained it's fueling dock, boat slips and equipment for other facilities on the grounds.
In Spring 2000 the Club underwent a two year $1.8 million remodeling project which included adding an in-ground heated pool and spa and expanding the main clubhouse to make more room for meeting rooms and offices. There seems little doubt that Milwaukee Yacht Club has opened Lake Michigan to thousands of boaters and others throughout its first 147 years, and is ready to continue doing so for years to come.