In 1897, after a summer filled with boating excursions, sailing parties and two hotly contested regattas, a group of yachtsmen organized what is today the oldest yacht club in Texas, the Houston Yacht Club (HYC). Dan E. Kennedy, a former Texas Ranger, was elected the first commodore at a meeting held in the Binz Building, Houston’s first skyscraper, on February 2, 1898.
In 1905, the members reorganized as the Houston Yacht & Power Boat Club. Members continued to hold meetings in downtown Houston and moor their boats at the club wharf on Buffalo Bayou near Allen’s Landing. The purpose of the organization included promoting and encouraging both the science and sport of boating, and maintaining a cleaner and healthier bayou. Lumber magnate John H. Kirby donated his steamboat, the Lawrence to the Club to promote interest in Houston’s fledgling ship channel and Galveston Bay’s commercial and recreational potential. After two years the Club reorganized as the Houston Launch Club.
Starting in 1907, the Houston Launch Club, with its impressive fleet of motor cruisers, continued to meet downtown until 1910, when they built a club house on Buffalo Bayou in Harrisburg (now part of Houston’s East End) opposite Brady Island and today's Port of Houston turning basin. In addition to encouraging and organizing sailing, power boating, and canoeing events, promoting the development of the ship channel and Houston as a deep water port continued to be a primary focus of the Club.
After World War I, the sailing members, ready to compete in regattas with other clubs in the South, began a movement to relocate the Club to Galveston Bay where practicing their sailing skills would be more convenient. In 1923, these members established a sailing facility in Seabrook known as the “Houston Yacht Club, Launch Club Bayshore Home.”
In 1926, the two groups began selling their respective properties and pooling resources to build the Shoreacres clubhouse, near LaPorte, on Galveston Bay. Retaining the Houston Yacht Club name and the burgee of the Houston Launch Club, they moved into their “magnificent and commodious” Spanish building in July of 1927. This three story stucco building, affectionately referred to as the “Pink Palace,” has provided a warm home on the Bay for member families for almost 75 years.
The grand clubhouse, inspired by the Club’s longstanding mission to promote both the city of Houston as well as the Club, would continue to signal the Club’s commitment to Houston as a deep-water port and would collectively benefit recreational boating and yachting.
Due in part to the success of commercial shipping interests and growth of the port infrastructure, the Yacht Club flourished in their new location: large crowds consistently attended regattas, while speed-boating became increasingly popular.
During World War II, the club house was occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard, which converted it into a training facility. As in World War I, members and their boats went to war. Their power boats were used to help patrol the Houston Ship Channel, a vital oil port.
From its landmark home on upper Galveston Bay, HYC continues a long established tradition of organizing regattas, hosting national and world championships, and promoting Houston as a nationally recognized yacht racing and recreational boating center.