The Block Island Club exists for the benefit of the entire Island Community, including, but not limited to, full-time residents of Block Island, summer residents and visitors to Block Island. Its purpose is to promote the general welfare of the Island community through recreational and educational programs for children and adults, including, but not limited to, sailing and seamanship, swimming and water safety, tennis and arts and crafts. The Block Island Club further exists to promote an appreciation of the unique character of Block Island’s natural environment among children and adults in the community.
The Block Island Club was founded in 1963 by Dr. Edgar Frazelle, Mr. Lawrence “Bud” Pomeroy and Dr. DuPont Guerry. Initially, Pomeroy and Frazelle expressed an interest in starting a summer boat and tennis club and heard of a property that was for sale on the Great Salt Pond. At the time, the property included about ten acres of land and two homes. During the ensuing weeks, they brought Guerry aboard to help with the initial investment and they purchased the property on which the clubhouse stands today. The additional two houses on the property included the Bayside (a former bed and breakfast) and the present O’Toole house; both were sold, however, to pay for a clubhouse.
The initial plan for the clubhouse was to purchase a Victorian-style lifesaving station that sat in town near Old Harbor. Pomeroy, Frazelle and Guerry sought to buy the station and have it moved to the Club property. When curators at Mystic Seaport learned of the historic life-saving station’s existence, they offered a replica of the building in exchange for the original. The original building was ferried by barge across Block Island Sound to Mystic, where it is part of the Mystic Seaport Museum. The Block Island Club clubhouse is a close copy of the original, with changes to accommodate the Club’s needs.
After purchasing the property and the clubhouse, Pomeroy, Frazelle and Guerry looked around for people to join. They soon found plenty of eager families, and by the summer of 1965, the first couple moved into the clubhouse and the first staff arrived, eager to teach sailing, tennis and swimming. Since that time, the Club has hired students, teachers and other enthusiastic young people to staff the club, work as Manager, as well as sailing, swimming, tennis and arts and crafts instructors. Some of the staff have always lived in the apartment on the third floor of the clubhouse and at one time, instructors also lived in the little red house (now owned by the Namenwirth family), which is still on the right hand side at the entrance to the driveway.
Throughout the 1970’s and the 1980’s, the Club flourished with many enthusiastic families. Existing programs grew stronger and additional programs such as aerobics, ballet and even rug making were added, providing a unique learning experience for both children and adults.
In the early 1990’s, with the generous help of members, the Club purchased a fleet of JY-15’s and JY trainers to revitalize the sailing program. The staff grew to accommodate more students, and the board introduced a staff intern program to train home-grown staff. The clubhouse basement was reconfigured and renovated to add a new office, workshop and furnace room. The bathrooms were improved and the spiral staircase (while missed) was replaced by a safer design. The staff apartment was also updated.
In the late 1990’s the Club gained formal recognition under the tax code as an educational not-for-profit. At that time, the Club also helped establish the after-school sailing program with the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI). Club members and staff take part in and run the Hal Madison boat race which has taken place for 25 summers running.
In recent years, members once again generously supported the capital needs of the Club by purchasing a new fleet of Optimists and Vanguard 420’s to replace the aging JY-15’s and trainers. Our clubhouse has received a new deck, roof and windows and an electrical upgrade. Our large boat dock has been completely refurbished and our many of our smaller finger docks have been replaced by less labor intensive plastic modular systems.
Approximately 175 families now join the Club each year. These families represent a healthy mix of year round Islanders and summer Cottagers. The Club continues to flourish and grow, with each new generation learning skills, forming friendships and creating lasting memories at the edge of the Great Salt Pond.