FOUNDER & FIRST COMMODORE, EDMUND MUNGER BRELSFORDEdmund Munger Brelsford (E.M.) had come from Ohio in 1880, became the first postmaster of Palm Beach and the first Commodore of the Palm Beach Yacht Club.
E.M. arrived on the shores of Lake Worth in May 1880 on a hunting and fishing trip with his brother John Hale Brelsford (Doc). In the fall of 1880, he returned to Lake Worth with his widowed mother and his sister, Minna. They brought the first music to the lake. E.M. played the violin, Doc played the cello, and Minna, the piano. When the Palm Beach Yacht Club erected a Clubhouse a short way south of the Cocoanut Grove House, they put together a seven-piece orchestra to play on opening night with the Bradley brothers, Lyman, John Cleminson, Henry Sanders, and Henry’s son Will.
A POSTCARD OF THE ORIGINAL YACHT CLUB IN PALM BEACH HAS JUST BEEN FOUND! Here, the original Club Building is pictured in 1898 on the shore of the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach.
Below, the site of today's Palm Beach Yacht Club & Marina was originally a Sea Plane landing area. Here, Flagler Drive was a dirt road and the seaplanes pulled up to the Eighth Street location.
COMMODORE CHARLES CLARKECharles and Louisa Clarke spent the winter of 1890- 1891 at Elijah N. Dimick’s “Cocoanut Grove House,” Palm Beach’s only hotel. On the property was the Palm Beach Yacht Club. The following winter, Clarke bought the Hotel and the Yacht Club building, along with about 50 acres of land from the Lake Trail to the Ocean. The PBYC Clubhouse was on the lakefront of his property. Clarke then either sold or rented Cocoanut Grove House (no records remain) to Henry Flagler, who used it to house the workers building his Royal Poinciana Hotel. Mr. Clarke retained the Palm Beach Yacht Club building and became Commodore in 1892. Forevermore, until his death, C.J. Clarke was always referred to as 'The Commodore' or 'Commodore Clarke'.
Commodore Clarke became a well-known figure in Palm Beach with his jaunty hat and umbrella. He and Louisa entertained distinguished Pittsburghers on vacation, including Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Carnegie and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Phipps who, of course, visited his beloved Palm Beach Yacht Club. Henry Flagler was a frequent visitor to the original Palm Beach Yacht Club as well.
In 1897 Commodore Clarke donated the two-story wood-framed Palm Beach Yacht Club Building to West Palm Beach for a library called 'The Reading Room'. Henry Flagler donated $100 for a barge to move the building from Palm Beach to City Park, on the lakefront at the east end of Clematis Avenue.
Boating & Fishing in the Early Years
Club Racing HistoryThe following notes are taken from the ”1927 Washington’s Birthday Regatta” Program ... (spelling and grammar have been reproduced as originally printed.)
“Although this regatta is considered officially the fifth Annual, the Club and its predecessor, the Lake Worth Yacht Club, actually started racing many years ago. A clipping from the “Tropical Sun” published at Juno on March 22nd, 1894, described a regatta held that year on Washington’s Birthday. The racing was started from the steam Yacht “Alba”, owned by Commodore C. J. Clarke.”
The first Cruise that we have record of was February 1st through 4th, 1905 and was connected with a carnival on Lake Worth. There is very little printed information about these early events. In April, 1911, the Palm Beach Yacht Club was incorporated and the "re- charter" was issued by the State of Florida in Tallahassee. It took another 11 years for the Club to find a home.
On March 22nd, 1922, at 8:00 o’clock in the evening, a special meeting of the Palm Beach Yacht Club was held on Captain W.H. Reddy’s houseboat “New River”. A reorganization was effected and Commodore M. B. Carmichael was elected. During his year in office, a great deal was accomplished. During this year the first dock in West Palm Beach was erected at the foot of “Sixth Avenue” (currently “8th Street”). A temporary clubhouse was built on the dock and the membership was materially increased.
Text from the Annual Publication ...
“During the last three years the Palm Beach Yacht Club has erected a clubhouse which is one of the finest in the South. It has revived the Washington’s Birthday Regatta, which is now deemed a yachting event of considerable importance, and has increased its membership to something over 400.”
“While the first Washington’s Birthday Regatta in the Palm Beaches was held in 1894, the real history of the annual race as now staged dates to 1923, when a special committee composed of Herbert Margerum and Frederic Barlow went to New York and enlisted the aid of several nationally known racing men in bringing to Palm Beach a number of the famous 151-class hydroplanes.”
“The Venetian Night parade staged on Sunday evening made a picture long to be remembered. Gorgeous with colored lighting effects, they paraded slowly up and down the lake in front of a double shore line illuminated with red flares and various colored lights on the hotels and buildings. The annual drivers’ dinner and presentation of trophies at the Clubhouse was a most interesting event because it brought together one of the largest assemblages of racing men from all sections of the United States ever assembled in the South.”
Thomas Keller Was Here!
America's Premier Chef brought a new level of cuisine to members in the 1970's.
Born at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, to Edward and Betty Keller, a Marine drill instructor and a restaurateur respectively, Thomas was the youngest of five boys. The family moved east and settled in Palm Beach, Florida, where his mother, Betty Keller, became the Manager of the Palm Beach Yacht Club.
n his teenage summers and after school, the young Tom Keller worked at the Yacht Club, starting as a dishwasher and quickly moving up to cook. It was here he discovered his passion for cooking and 'perfection in a hollandaise sauce'. Member Patricia Dehon remembers "Tommy" traveling to France to intern in fine French Restaurants under the tutelage of renowned chefs where he found the training and challenge he needed to make his own way. Coming back to Florida from time to time, Thomas picked up some kitchen shifts for his Mom at the Club and Patricia said the food was so superb no one could believe it! Alas, he was anxious to move out on his own and try his hand as an entrepreneur. He soon left for New York and began his meteoric career to what many now consider him to be the "Best Chef in America".
Clearly Thomas Keller set the standard for the renowned food and service at the Palm Beach Yacht Club, now provided by our fantastic Executive Chef Bill Somers.
Thomas Keller-Yacht Club Appearance & Book signing November 23, 2011
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