Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The History of the Farragut Boat Club, Chicago. (1886-1952)

The Farragut Boat Club was organized in 1872, and, as its name indicates, for the purpose of promoting the interests of boating. Beginning with a limited number of members, and a small boathouse at the foot of Twelfth Street (Twelfth '12th' Street was renamed Roosevelt Road on May 25, 1919), it had gradually increased until it had reached the pictured flourishing condition. 
Supplement to the Scientific American-Architects and Builders Edition - February 1887

The clubhouse was located at 413-415 Lake View Avenue (3016-18 Lake Park Avenue today). It was completed in the spring of 1886 by Robert Rae Jr.[1], a leading Chicago architect in the 1890s. It was a handsome two-story brick building with a basement and stone trimmings.

Club Officers: Charles S. Downs, President; F.G. Whiting, V.P.; C.F. Bryant, Secretary; F.M. Staples, Treasurer; Charles De V. Hoard, Chairman Board of Admissions; George A. McClellan, Captain; Everett C. Brown, Commander; Ed S. Hunter, Lieut. Commander; and George W. Hancock, Ensign. —1890 Chicago Blue Book

In the basement, there was a bowling alley, a pool room, a gymnasium, and the lavatories. The first floor contained parlors, a reception room, a billiard room, a card room, and a library. The second floor was devoted to the dancing hall and a richly appointed theatre, with a full stock of scenery and props (theatrical property) and a seating capacity of four hundred. A series of entertainments were given there each winter, and the Farragut Boat Club Theatricals had become renowned at a level rarely obtained by amateur thespians. 
Note the enclosed front balconies.

The boathouse was a one-story brick building at the foot of Thirty-third Street. The Club owned about twenty-five boats, including an eight-oared barge, four-oared shells, four-oared gigs, single and double shells, single and double training boats, and pleasure boats of all descriptions. The initiation fee to the Farragut Boat Club was $50 ($1,450 today), and yearly dues were $24 ($700 today).

Fact: The first softball game was invented and played on Thanksgiving Day in 1887 inside of the basement gym at Farragut Boat Club. The location is now an empty lot. The clubhouse, what was left of it, was razed in 1952.

There was a monument at the site but had been moved.
This photo was taken around 1995 outside the "16-Inch Softball Hall of Fame" was the stone and brass "Farragut Boathouse Monument," which commemorates the birth of softball in Chicago in 1887. It was originally placed at 31st Street and Lake Park Avenue in Chicago but is currently in storage with the city. A new 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame opened in Forest Park in 2009.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Robert Rae Jr. (c.1853-1920) was born in Philadelphia and came to Chicago with his parents in 1860. The son of a prominent lawyer, he was educated in the public schools of Chicago and entered the office of architect Henry Lord Gay in about 1872. Two years later, he was appointed assistant chief engineer of the Chicago & South Atlantic Railroad, a position he held for a number of years before he started his own architectural office in Chicago in about 1880. Rae's practice focused on small-scale commercial buildings and residences in eclectic historical styles.


The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is RATED PG-13. Please comment accordingly. Advertisements, spammers and scammers will be removed.