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Brief History of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club

Just seven years following the conclusion of the Civil War, organized yachting came to Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Yacht Club was formed in 1872.  This was a time before the first Southern Pacific train reached the city and State Street was a graded dirt thoroughfare with boardwalks and lighted by gas imported from San Francisco. In the world of yachting this was the beginning of the “golden age” with the first race for the America’s Cup in 1870.

The proximity of the town to the ocean gave rise to an emerging consciousness of the joys of water sports and sailing, just as it was doing on San Francisco Bay. The sport of sailing rapidly spread to every seaport in the country, from the sophisticated East Coast to the shores of the Pacific and the picturesque town of Santa Barbara.

The elegant Arlington Hotel was built to accommodate the tourist trade. A mule car line was established between the water front and the site of the hotel. The long isolation of the community was broken with the completion of a substantial wharf named for its builder, John B. Stearns. Ships could now unload their passengers without rowing them ashore.

The original clubhouse, as far as the records show, was a 35 x 20 foot building at the foot of Stearns Wharf on the West side. During the building of the wharf this had been the home of John Stearns. The southeast corner of the building was occupied by a galley with a wood stove. The southwest corner was a head with a pipe leading to the beach below. A battered piano stood in the Northeast corner. The membership totaled 50.

About Christmas, 1924 in a southeast gale, the clubhouse was washed out to sea. The Old Yacht Club Inn, a two-story house was an interim clubhouse after the original was destroyed. It was located on Cabrillo Boulevard just east of Stearns Wharf but was later moved to its present location at 431 Corona Del Mar after another series of storms. In 1926 a new clubhouse was built on Stearns Wharf. The clubhouse opened at the location of the present Harbor Restaurant.

The 1930’s were a rocky period for the club. Generally poor conduct on the part of a few of its members, alcohol and the depression had taken a toll on the SB Yacht Club. The Stearns Wharf Clubhouse was lost for non-payment of rent. In 1938 the Club was reorganized and occupied a one room shack on the East side of Stearns Wharf, opposite the Harbor Restaurant site. During the war years the club held meetings at various members’ houses. In 1949 a suite was leased in the California Hotel on State St. In 1950 negotiations with the City of Santa Barbara allocated a portion of beach to the Club. A building was used at the beach site and removed in 1966, replaced by its current facility on the beach in the West harbor area.

History from: Santa Barbara Yacht Club

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