It’s August and you see on Facebook all the fun your friends are having on vacations at the Jersey Shore. Before Facebook, folks turned to the pages of their hometown newspaper to check out their friends’ status.
Some Riverton sailors were drawn to Stone Harbor to compete in regattas and by all accounts, they had their share of successes.
This is a story of Stone Harbor Yacht Club and Country Club illustrated in vintage postcards.
All the Pleasures of Country and Seashore Combined
by Harlan B. Radford, Jr.
To celebrate and recognize the first anniversary of the Stone Harbor Yacht Club, in 1912 the South Jersey Realty Company published a very special and colorful postcard expressing, “Greetings from Stone Harbor.”
It proudly announces two new amenities: the Stone Harbor Golf Clubhouse and the Stone Harbor Yacht Club and shrewdly but subtlety tempts the viewer by depicting several recreational opportunities offered at Stone Harbor.
A fish hawk’s nest atop a tall pole and a flagpole trimmed with the American Flag and the yacht club’s unique red and blue burgee frame the layout. Seven vignettes in the encircling rope boast of many activities offered at Stone Harbor including golfing, fishing, racing motor cars on the beach, yacht and a racing motorboat, sunbathing on the beach, and racing sailboats. A Wright Flyer biplane overflies the yacht club. Stone Harbor’s entrepreneurs saw the inclusion of these two facilities as critical to the growth of their enterprise and they were right!
Many shore vacationers today and indeed some Stone Harbor residents are probably unaware that during 1908-1909, the developers placed pilings and bulkheads to create more land for housing and other expansion and dredged the natural basin to enlarge and deepen Snug Harbor.
As a result, both boating and fishing activities increased significantly. In 1909, a group of boating enthusiasts formed the Stone Harbor Yacht Club (SHYC) and incorporated it in January 1910 to foster an interest in sailing and powerboating. Situated on the bay at the point where Snug Harbor basin and the Great Channel converged, it became the focal point for the fledgling resort.
By early 1910, preparations were already underway to erect a handsome clubhouse on Snug Harbor Yacht Basin in the spring by the John Larsen Contracting Company.
It officially opened on July 4, 1910, and its success coincided with some other improvements to the resort including Stone Harbor Water Co., a new boardwalk, an electric plant, and a new hotel.
According to the Aug. 14, 1910, Philadelphia Inquirer, many yachtsmen pronounced the location, the waterfront, and the racing course “…the best on the Jersey coast,” and its bungalow-type clubhouse was reported to be “…the most artistic in build of any of the yacht clubs along the coast…”
Despite these early accolades, the SHYC encountered financial difficulties at the time of World War I owing to “…a great number of its men in the service, and those engaged in war work,” and, burdened by heavy debt, the club closed its doors in 1918 for several years.
A search of periodicals yielded no reports of regattas, dances, or events at SHYC for the years 1919-1927 and only one outboard race in 1928.
In 1929, on the threshold of the Great Depression, a new group of investors intervened, purchased the property, reorganized, and renovated the clubhouse.
They renamed it “The Yacht Club of Stone Harbor” (YCSH), the name used today, and opened for business with a regatta and a dance on August 3, 1929. Dancing in the Grand Ballroom and fine dining at the restaurant were popular mainstays of the club.
The following fifteen vintage postcards illustrate some milestones in the early history of Stone Harbor Yacht Club.
A crowd of people assembled for the ceremonial flag raising at the Stone Harbor Yacht Club on Memorial Day, 1910.
A handsome visiting yacht at the flag-raising and first annual reunion of the Stone Harbor Yacht Club on Memorial Day, 1910, Stone Harbor, N. J. One reference source indicated this yacht belonged to John Gilmore.
A colorful artist’s rendering of the proposed Stone Harbor Yacht Club.
Second annual rally of members and friends of the Stone Harbor Yacht Club at Stone Harbor, Memorial Day, 1911. Officers are grouped to the left. Postmarked July 17, 1914.
The sender writes: “Dear Father, this is quite a large place. The channel at our back door is very pretty and there is always a strong, cool breeze. Your affec. daughter, Pearl”.
A view of the Eighty-fifth Street yacht basin. Postmarked September 4, 1913. Later renamed the South Basin, it is the smallest one of a chain of seven beautiful artificial basins along the Great Channel at Stone Harbor.
Commodore James Thompson’s ‘Albatross,’ flagship of the Stone Harbor Yacht Club, located on Great Channel, Stone Harbor, N.J.
Stone Harbor Yacht Club and basin with visiting racing craft during Gala Week, July 1 to 5, 1911. The two central launches are the famous “Sand Burr” and the “Vanish.”
Stone Harbor Yacht Club, Stone Harbor, N.J. captures both the front door and the overhanging porte-cochere passageway to let vehicles pass under for access to the clubhouse. Most other postcard images show the clubhouse with water in front from the more picturesque Snug Harbor perspective. This view was part of a very scarce folio, or souvenir folder, consisting of multiple early black and white views of Stone Harbor.
One postcard postmarked on August 31, 1914, bears the following hand-written message: “This is a peach of a place. I’m picking out our lot today, tell Pa I’m staying with the Riters’ & having a very nice time. Paul.” Two of the images are examples of rare real photo postcards or RPPCs.
Stone Harbor Country Club was located on the mainland just minutes away from the town of Stone Harbor. These last four circa 1912-15 era postcards feature the Country Club that boasted having a 45-acre 9-hole golf course.
Here is a frontal view of the wooden shingle-sided Stone Harbor Country Club featuring a sizable open front porch.
Atop the tall pole immediately to the right of the clubhouse is a fish hawk’s nest. Such pole-mounted nests like this were rather common and visible throughout parts of the South Jersey seashore and the coastal waterway.
People enjoy a game of golf at the Country Club. The advent of the new trolley line between Stone Harbor and Cape May Court House made the Country Club especially convenient according to the caption on the back of this very old card.
In this view of the Country Club, we see several individuals relaxing and seated on the front steps and in the shade on the front porch. Once more, there’s that pole with the fish hawk’s nest.
The caption on the reverse side of this postcard promotes all the various sports activities that were available then, including golf, along with tennis, and even trapshooting.
This full-color 1918 postmarked card depicts some very special occasion with a throng of well-dressed people and an abundance of American flags, possibly taken during the official opening of the Country Club or the much-celebrated Gala Week activities that took place in early July of 1911.
Both the Yacht Club and the Country Club figured in the early development and ongoing success of the community now referred to as “The Seashore At Its Best,” namely Stone Harbor!
We urge anyone with information, photos, mementos, etc. about Riverton sailors’ exploits that are 50 years old or more to contact us.