The Appleton Yacht Club History
Rewritten by Historian Sue Palermo, May 2006; Updated 2013
In 1921, a fledgling club purchased an old boat factory from the city. This gave members a place to meet for the purpose of building and restoring boats. The first project was to move the building closer to the water so that the boats could be easily moved in and out of the boathouse on a hoist.
In 1932 six men filed Incorporation papers with the State of Wisconsin to officially begin the Appleton Yacht Club. The Incorporation papers declared the purpose “….to promote and foster the spirit of boating, to guard and protect the interests of members who are owners of power boats, to inculcate among its members a knowledge of the rules of navigation and naval courtesy, to encourage and conduct races, cruises, club runs, water carnivals, and aquatic events for the entertainment of the citizens of Appleton and to encourage harmony and good fellowship among its members in every way possible.”
In 1937 the first of two disastrous fires occurred that gutted the clubhouse. In 1938 five thousand dollars was appropriated to remodel the club and install a new bar and fixtures. This construction also included 26 new slips and a work slip with the overhead hoist designed to handle up to 12 tons. This facility was the most elaborate on the river when it was finished. During the war, from 1941-1945, the Coast Guard Auxiliary meetings of the temporary reserves were held at the clubhouse.
In 1947, just 10 years after the previous fire the interior of the building was destroyed causing $30,000.00 damage to property, again by fire. This time the remodeling included indoor toilets, both “Inboard and Outboard”. The women were thrilled and the men were happy they did not have to share their little room! French doors separated the dining room from the bar that had a large window across the front overlooking the river. The interior was all knotty pine and had a nautical and rustic look unique for its day.
A new wave of expansion began in June of 1950 with the purchase of the Krause property. Mr. Krause was unwilling to sell the land to the City and instead sold it to the Appleton Yacht Club for $6,900.00. After much discussion and to the dismay of some of the members, the AYC turned around and sold the property to the City for exactly the same amount, but with a 25-year lease secured.
With a lease on the Krause waterfront property in hand, the Club dredged the swampland in 1952 and prepared for what became a moderately long expansion program. In 1956 six steel slips were built just up river from the work slip, followed by four more in 1958, one in 1959 and four more in 1962. These slips replaced the wooden slips common for that time.
During the 1960’s new developments began to take place. In 1963 a master plan was submitted to the city, proclaiming construction of a $50,000.00 clubhouse and a series of new steel slips. At this time the city was not receptive to some aspects of these plans. In 1967, revised plans were again submitted asking for another long-term lease and proposed the construction of a new clubhouse up the river next to Lutz Park.
The city was under pressure to provide public recreational areas and the Yacht Club decided that we needed to explore other location options. This concern resulted in eventually purchasing 11 ½ acres of property on Little Lake Butte des Morts for the purpose of building a clubhouse and marina. One year later in 1969 the town of Menasha offered to buy the land from the Club for $31,000.00. The Club refused.
In 1973, the club negotiated a 30-year lease with the city of Appleton to include the existing club property plus additional property extending up to the boat launch area at Lutz Park. This is our existing clubhouse site that was completed in 1978. This site has allowed us to expand our docking facilities to accommodate 70 or more boats ranging in size from 14 to 55 feet.
Also in 1973 the First Mates Auxiliary, open to any female associated with AYC, organized for the purpose of socializing and raising money for the Yacht Club. Shrubbery, sod, landscaping, and a microwave for the kitchen met the immediate needs at that time. This was accomplished through community rummage sales, craft sales, a cookbook compiled and printed by members and many other activities. Today the First Mates continue to meet and are actively involved in numerous civic activities as well as organizing and participating in some of the many events the club has to offer.
Negotiations for the sale of our Little Lake Butte des Morts property began in earnest again with the Town of Menasha in March of 1986. In May the Appleton Yacht Club voted unanimously to accept the $30,000.00 offer by the Town of Menasha motivated by the developing relationship with the City of Appleton, including a long-term lease.
In 2002, a 50-year-old important land dispute was finally settled. The AYC then purchased the property in front of the Classic Covered Slips
In 2012, the membership of the Appleton Yacht Club approved a major renovation and addition to the bar and restaurant facilities, including a new entrance, bathrooms, expanded dining capacity, a new kitchen, new siding, a new and expanded deck, etc. The Club capped off this wonderful and exciting expansion with a Lighthouse to help make the AYC a visible and memorable destination for boaters on the Fox River, members and guests.
To this day we remain true to our creed by being involved in our community organizing and sponsoring the annual vessel safety checks at our club. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free inspections to members and citizens both in our harbor and in our parking lot. We also organize, sponsor, and promote boating safety, hands on seminars on the proper use of fire extinguishers, knot tying etc. The club opens its doors to all boating organizations and groups that are interested in the preservation and safety issues of the Fox River.
The annual Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce event is very popular among our business people to come and recreate, socialize and meet new business contacts. It’s also a great opportunity to take a boat ride on our beautiful, historic Fox River, provided by the Yachting Members of the Appleton Yacht Club.
Our expertise and firsthand knowledge of the current water conditions is undeniable as supported by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Office in Detroit MI who contact us and seek our advice and input on the decisions they make as to water level control for the entire Lake Winnebago Fox-Wolf River basin.
We eagerly await the reopening of the entire Fox River lock system from the first lock in Appleton thru to DePere. We provide a safe harbor for fueling, food, and the first stopping off place enroute to Lake Winnebago and beyond for those going South. From our marina you can go anywhere in the world via the Historical Fox Locks System.
The AYC Oath
Appleton Yacht Club is a volunteer, boating organization. The AYC Oath reads as follows: “I do hereby promise before these members present that I will help to make this club a success, keeping in mind this is above all a boating organization, and will to the best of my ability promote the spirit of boating fellowship.”