In 1905 Portsmouth's boating enthusiasts founded the first Portsmouth Boat Club. Records from the Court of Hustings for the City of Portsmouth show the club was incorporated on 18 May 1905 with George R. Parrish as President and C.A. Carpenter as Vice President. Little is known about the activities of this organization and it is thought to have prospered until interest dwindled during World War I. Later writings in the “Log of the Portsmouth Boat Club” attribute the club’s origin to Dr. Joseph Grice’s efforts in 1937. Oddly enough, Dr Grice was listed as one of the original Board of Directors in the club’s 1905 incorporation.
Dr. Grice is also credited with donating the first known clubhouse. The building, an unpretentious wooden structure, was said to have been on pilings off what is now Swimming Point. The club and this clubhouse fell into disrepair during World War II and immediately afterwards. Court of Hustings records detail another incorporation on 17 August 1948 with Jefferson O. Hudgins as President and Lamar C. Toomer as Secretary. By 1949, the membership had begun a strenuous effort to put the club and clubhouse back in shape again. When the building renovation was complete, the result was a nice new clubhouse and dock, smaller than the Hampton Yacht Club, but very pleasant. This era of the club ended it's life in the early 1970’s as a result of Portsmouth’s downtown redevelopment. The extension of Crawford Parkway severed the connection between the clubhouse and what is now Crawford Bay. With the clubhouse essentially landlocked, the property was sold and the club disbanded.
In 1991, the Portsmouth Boat Club was reestablished and since that time has been a boating and social hub for the City of Portsmouth. In June 2001, the club purchased a house and property located on Elm Avenue with a beautiful view of Scott Creek. After extensive renovations and construction of a parking lot, the first "official" meeting in the clubhouse was held in January 2003. A new meeting hall addition was built in 2005 and a large deck in 2006. The kitchen area was remodeled in 2007 and a outdoor grilling pavillion was erected in 2009.
Power boating and sailboat racing were featured competitive activities in the club’s early years. Today, the club still sponsors both power and sailing events such as the Barnacle Regatta, The Race to Cock Island, the Barnacle Cup, Hometowne Regatta, etc. However, PBC is considerably more than a boat club for racing sailors. Boating is truly a family affair, from the family of crew who laugh and party with each other after the Barnacle night and weekend races, to the families who cruise for a day or a week or more to explore life on the Chesapeake and beyond.
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