The History Of MHYC


Mentor Harbor Yachting Club – as it stands today – is the result of extensive planning going back to far-seeing members who, in July 1928, organized the original club. Through a series of events, the club has survived the events of 1929, has weathered the lean war years, and has reinvested in its infrastructure to become what we know today.

The membership owes a deep debt of gratitude to a succession of dedicated officers and directors who, over the years had the vision and follow-through to bring these dreams to fruition. Here’s how it came about from the start way back when. Harbor Yachting Club, originally incorporated in 1928, barely survived its initial eight years during the depression. Once through this period, the club regrouped, and has continued to grow throughout the years.

The History Of MHYC Marsh

On a,bright August afternoon, when the rows of handsome cruisers lie easily at their docks and only the smallest boats in the lagoons try to point out eachchange in the wind, it is natural to find yourself  believing that Mentor Harbor has always been as it is now; but this is a quiet trick which an agreeable scene plays on you.


Even in winter, your eye finds little that calls up the past. The ship’s hulls, shrouded under winter covers, seem to belong to the present and to the future. Their underwater lines, exposed now,have a beauty which speaks  of next summer.


What you cannot readily see, as you look at the pleasant harbor, at its well-kept fleet,and at the clubhouse which stands beside it, is that you are enjoying the  fortunate  result of a long and tangled chain of events . Some of these events were natural. Some were bought about only by painstaking work of many people. Some were carefully planned and forecast; some were simple chance .


It  not easy to trace  the chain of  events  back to its beginning with certainty, for the early links forced a long time ago.


For hundreds of years, the land was a marsh which formed a hazy break in the otherwise clearly-etched shoreline of  Lake Erie. When the American Indian cicilization beegasn to develop, the marsh became a favorite summer camping ground, teeming with game, fish, and wild fowl. The highlands east and west of the marsh were dotted with tents; not many years ago you could see the ca=harred rocks in the fire holes of these Indians encampments.


In the 1800’s the marsh was thought a likely spot for bog iron, and a log road, made of closely laid heavy square timbers, was built across it for prospecting. The road became the most traveled route from the  Headlands westward to the Herrick farm, which was located on the west bank of the marsh near the present location of the  uncompleted highway just east of the club.


By the late part of the last century, a channel had broken through and with relatively high lake levels, the marsh’s potentialities as a harbor came to be realized to a small extent. A fleet of small lapstrake-hulled fishing sloops was built up, sailing out of the  marsh to tend their nets. The fleet docked in an open arm of water to the east of the marsh and the fisherman dried their nets over the  reeds and cattails in the center  of the marsh. In the years after  1900, however ,the level of the lake dropped somewhat, and the channel became too shallow to be usable, so the operations was abandoned.


Although no longer a harbor , the marsh was still a hunting, trapping, and fishing paradise, with gun club, covered boathouses for skiffs, and a number of small private cabins. Waterfowl came in great flights, to the satisfation  of the  hunters  in both spring and fall seasons. Large bass and pickerel up to three feet in length were caught in the channel and ponds. The largest –carp in lakeErie-some almost the size of a man-lolled in the warm,sunny backwaters. Water snakes and black snakes  up to eleven feet in length were  reported on the marsh and the winter trapping of muskrats was a profitable occupation. In all, the marsh was the wildest area on the shore east of Cleveland.


Near the turn of the century, the marsh was recognized as a likely site for a  large harbor. The men who envisioned it then were railroad men; they saw the lakes becoming more heavily used each year for the transportation of grain down from the Northwest,  at shipping rates which the railroads, would be of tremendous value-with a railroad-owned fleet of lake vessels to round out the entire shipping process.


The plan (and it was thought out in considerable detail) was developed by the B & O; clear out the marsh, made a harbor of it, and dredge a channel for five miles down the Grand River to Richmond, with the New York Central  constructing the eastern end of the channel. Physically, the plan was feasible, for exploration revealed an average depth of 22 feet of soft muck beneath the marsh surface, which could be dredged out in short order with the use of heavy suction equipment.


So the railroads began buying land. They were brought up short, however, by the results of a series of cases which reached the Supreme Court; the decisions in these Granger Rate Cases were, in effect, that the railroads could carry grain from Minnesota as cheaply as the new steamships. And with the ruling, the prospect of a great new harbor new became much less attractive. Having bought a large area of marshland, the B & O railroad decided it had already gone too far, and called the rest of the plan to a halt. The development of the harbor was to wait for a time.

The Harbor

In the 1920’s when boom times seemed destined to grow forever, when the sky was the limit, and immediate possibilities seemed limited only by a man’s imagination. Mentor Marsh came once more under the scrutiny of men with vision.

If their dreams failed to work out in every detail, it should not be charged that  their plan was a poor one, for it was not. The  “hazy break in an otherwise clearly-etched shoreline” was as full of genium promise in 1926 as it had ever been. Just as with the railroad plan, uncontrollable events took charge of the plans of the group in the surprising thing , looking back, is not that their aims were not fully accomplished , but that they  came so near realization as they did.


In the middle of that eventful ten-year period, a small group of men was turning  casual  conversation into a definite plan. The  conversation had been about the VENICE-like real estate developments which were being successfully promoted in Florida, and about Mentor Marsh. They talked of the good harbor it would make for yachts, and how it might be a wonderful place for a community of fine homes for people who liked yachting. The plans were on a large scale; they involved nothing less than a dredge out to dredge out to  the marsh ,built a completely concrete-walled harbor lined with small boat marines; construct a breakwater and a channel; build a clubhouse ; in the Spainsh architecture so popular in Florida; start with one fine home; and then advertise the development widely to attract new people and new homes. In 1926 a syndicate was formed to purchase the marsh and the high land to the north. Only three years later, by the end of 1929, over a million dollars had spent. And every item in the origibal plan had become a reality. Only in its hoped  for effect did it fall short. Advertising for the development was run in many places, but it did not attract new people and new homes. In 1930, that  was not surprising.


The original syndicate, which did so much in such a short space of time, included S. Livingston Mather, a driving force in the group; James Murphy, Donald McBride, E. Nash Matthews and Roy S. Dunham. A few  months later the synicate became the Mentor Harbor Company, and new principals were added; Chester A Bolton, Edward B. Greene, Louise S. Ingalls; H.H. Timken E.J. Johnson, Samuel Mather, and F.A. Pease


“The scale of the project’ said a club booklet published in 1940 referring to the Company’s overall plans, did not fit in with events followed the year 1928.” An incomplete bridge to the island in the lagoons stands in testimony .but it and the unused boat wells are virtually the only visible evidences of the plans gone astray.


The Mentor Harbor Yacht Club was originally incorporated on July 9, 1928; and although the harbor has not yet become “an American Venice,” as advertising and promotional literature for the development thought it might, the  club itself has grown almost continuously since that time. The old mentor Harbor Company became insolvent by May of 1934, and liens were attached on all its property by the principal contractor. Through the following years, however ,S.L. Mather allowed the club members to use the clubhouse without charge.


It was against this background that the club grew; by 1935 there were 200 members and a fleet of 90 boats. In 1936 the organization was reincorporated as the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club then boasting 140 boats, power and sail.


As it grew , the club began to find its financial sea-legs; the clubhouse was purchased from the contractor under a mortgage, and the club obtained a ten-year lease and an option to buy the land on which it operated. By 1939, these were 216 members, and 175boats, and  in this year a junior membership plan was inaugurated with a sliding scale of dues including gradual payments toward a full membership initiation fee.


Nineteen-forty was a good  year for the club, because  it marked the beginning of a steady swing into the black ink. Regular payments of substantial size were  made in that year and in each succeeding year, toward retiring the mortgage on the clubhouse. The final payment was made in 1942, and then the same financial determination was applied to making good the back taxes on the land.



Careful plans were made in the early ‘40’s for further development of the club after World War II, and in 1944 a permanent improvement fund of some $30,000 was subscribed by the members to help put these plans onto action. In that same year the club exercised its option to by Hanks and Hitchcock propertied, which included land along the main bank and the harbor entrance itself. The first first was an outright purchase, and the second was paid for over a period of seven years. The total cost of these  properties was about $60,000; their purchase gave the club substantial control over its facilities.


In 1944 the harbor was improved by the placement of a barge breakwater at one side of the channel in order to break waves  entering the channel in order to break waves entering the channel and reduce the surge of water inside the harbor. In the following year, the “A”frame crane which serves the harbor was erected. It has a capacity of 35 tons, and is capable of handling the largest yachts on the lakes.


The severe winter of 1951-52 required harbor improvements for a section of the channel wall which  was undermined and broken through by the lake. In 1952 the Board Of Directors set up a program  of  permanent  improvements  and authorized the  issuance of $100, 000 of bonds. With the proceeds it was possible to rebuild the east breakwall, install new steel docks, make improvements to the clubhouse and provide a new water supply develop a picnic area, add to the skeet facilitied and create  a children’s play yard.


The Club’s facilities expanded rapidly in the years of 1960 through 1980. Some  of  the se facilities included the swimming pool and locker building (1961); enlargement of the clubhouse of the porch which is  now “trophy row” , building of the cantilevered bar overlooking the lake, channel and beaches, a snack bar at water level, the harbor masters building and the  new “T’ docks (1968);the “T” docks for the East Beach, a new gate and fence at the front entrance (1971); the assumption of the operation of the boatyard, purchase of the 20-ton travelift and the tennis courts (1972);a new large mast shed (1973); the purchase of the floating center-head dredge with proceeds from loans by members (1975); shelter and showers on the East Beach (1976);and the completion of 16 new docks on the east Beach and dry pipe lines for fire fighting system on the main and east “T” docks (1980).


In 1980 major capital improvements were started. These included sea wall repairs to the harbor walls, the upgrading of Crows Nest and Wet Hens sailing fleets and renovation of the Boat Room to the Spinnaker Room, being used for club and private parties and also meetings.


Finally, in 1982, to combat the surge problem we had in the harbor, the Board  of Directors approved  spending $2000,000 to install weir walls(groins) in the channel. A total of 14 weirs were installed which are working well. In addition to the weirs we also reconstructed the gas dock walls and walks.


Major improvements for 1983 include complete remolding of the reception area, dining and living rooms. The club offices were completely reconstructed and remodeled.


At age 22 our swimming pool needed a major face lift. As a result, in 1984, it was completely renovated with two new filtering systems.


During 1985 and 1986 shorline eroision protection was installed at the East Beach and boat docks were elevated one to high water. House improvements included new air conditioning and heating for the bar and a new club sound system donated from the proceeds of “THE DRY ROT REVUE”


By 1989, the main dock bulkhead, now over 60 years old, had deteriorated to the point where it had to be replaced Construction of a new steel and cement wall was started at the end of 1989 and completed  in May of 1990 at a cost $345,000  – the largest single project ever undertaken at Mentor harbor Yachting Club. The planting of new trees and upgrading of dock lighting along the wall greatly enchanced the appearance of this area.


At present the club has 348 members, and a fleet of nearly 120  power boats  and 102 sailing yachts. While the power fleet included boats of almost every description, thee sailing fleet is largely accounted for by one-design classes, and large crusing and racing sailboats with auxiliary power. Representatives of the club have won high honors all  over the  a Great Lakes and on the ocean as well-including some excellent performances in the Newport-to-Bermuda race and the S.O.R.C. series. The club regularly hosts national sailboat competitions sponsored by the U.S. Sailing. A number of the power fleet are regular visitors to southern waters each year, returning northward with the approach of spring.  From a social point view, the club has become more active in recent years than ever before. The summer schedule is filled with dances, dinners and special occasions of many kinds, and even the winter weather does not prevent a number of events, including skeet shooting and children  parties at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.

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