In the beginning. . .
Nine original members founded Belvedere Yacht Club in 1952. The club is named after the Belvedere Heights Community in which it is located. Sharing a common interest in boating, fishing, and swimming in and around the Magothy River, the original members saw Harmony Point (also known as Belvedere Beach) on Forked Creek to be an ideal spot on which to gather and enjoy these activities. In the days before "Reach the Beach", it was not uncommon for people from the Baltimore area to head south in the summer to places along the Magothy, Severn, and South Rivers. Consequently, throughout much of the Club's history, a large percentage of members came from places like Baltimore, Catonsville, Halethorp, Linthicum, and Glen Burnie seeking a quiet beautiful place to get away and relax. Nowadays, members come from more diverse locations, given the dramatic development that occurred between Baltimore and Annapolis since 1952.
The Jacob Cardin family owned Harmony Point for many years and kept a house there. We understand that there is a family connection to Congressman Ben Cardin, whose uncle, we have been told, was one of the original nine Belvedere members. We would love to hear from anyone who can confirm the details or tell us more about the connection between Harmony Point and this prominent Maryland citizen who also served as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 - 1986.
The property came up for sale in 1952 as a collection of lots, most of which were purchased over a number of years by Belvedere Yacht Club. Covenants on a 1957 deed covering a lot sale to Belvedere include a stipulation that the land be used only as a yacht club. Three private residences, including the original Cardin house, eventually took up the remainder of Harmony Point. Recently, a fourth residence was added. The Club property was completely undeveloped at the start. Early photos of the Club waterfront show a collection of small outboard powered open boats ideal for a day of fishing, crabbing, or a swimming trip to a sandbar or beach. Nary a sailboat was in sight. Old timers confirm the original idea was to create a men's fishing club and the focus of the Club in the early days was very much along those lines. Another factor affecting the type of boats in the club was the fact that entrance to Forked Creek meant crossing a shallow sandbar area with an average depth of about two feet. The original building was a shed that could fit about six people when they needed to get out of the rain.
From the beginning, Belvedere has been a "working club", which means a yacht club that has no paid staff. The members do everything from cutting the grass to planning and completing major construction projects. In addition to keeping costs down, this approach has the advantage of building camaraderie and a sense of pride and belonging among the members.
The pier, clubhouse, bulkheads, and grounds were created and sustained over the years by the persistent and patient efforts of members, families, and friends. Very little of the work was done by paid contractors. From the founders on through today, the Club has had members skilled in a variety of trades and hailing from companies such as the old Bethlehem Shipbuilding and Drydock and Bethlehem Steel. Many of these members took pride in stating that Belvedere was "a working mans club". This spirit sometimes translated into lively debates about club improvements where the attitude was "if we can't do it ourselves, then it doesn't need to be done". As you might imagine, this led to a lot of scrounging for stuff on the cheap and "working deals". For example, the reclaimed land behind the pier bulkhead came from the initial construction of Anne Arundel Community College where the excavated dirt had to go "somewhere". Early pier pilings looked a lot like telephone poles and folding chairs for meetings came from a funeral home that went out of business.
In 1963, Belvedere members took soundings and charted the entrance to Forked Creek for the purpose of getting bigger boats into the creek and to the water on the other side of Harmony Point known as Cool Spring Cove (so named for the cool groundwater welling up from the bottom of the cove). From the charts developed by Belvedere, a 6' MLW channel was dredged and the spoil deposited along the waterfront of what is today the Ulmstead Point community. We suspect but can't find records to prove that Belvedere paid for the dredging. The same channel exists today and numerous boats reside in Forked Creek and Cool Spring Cove. The channel has been kept open by periodic dredging sponsored by Anne Arundel County.
Sailboats did not appear at the club until the late 1970's. A culture clash quickly followed and for a number of years in the 1980's there was a moratorium on the admission of "Sail boaters". At the time, "Sail boaters" were perceived as white-collar elitists who would turn Belvedere into a "country club". Over time, in any club, people who are active, involved, and dedicated will win over the rest and so it was with Belvedere. Belvedere is still not a "country club" and the cultural differences are sources of great fun and amusement. Today, Belvedere is home to a number of sailboats, has hosted cruise visits by sailboat clubs, and has had several "Sail boaters" lead the Club as Commodore. The Magothy River Sailing Association meets regularly at Belvedere.
Fishing and crabbing have always been popular at the Club and the membership usually has several accomplished anglers. Club fishing contests have been held off and on over the years. One the Club's most popular annual events began in the mid 1980's when a bunch of members decided to all go out at once on a Saturday morning, catch as many crabs as possible, and have a feast all Saturday afternoon. Some boats went out to trotline while others went out to handline. It wasn't long before people were competing to see which boat could catch the most crabs and who could catch the biggest crab. Since the club now had an "event" on its hands, a name was needed. P/C Hank Landergren called it "Chicken Necker Day" in honor of the handline bait of choice and the name stuck. Unfortunately, crabs are not as plentiful as they once were. These days the feast is supplemented by commercially supplied crabs.
Just as with the founders, swimming remains a popular activity. On any summer weekend, there is always a boat or two out to a swimming hole. Belvedere has a unique advantage in that it is not far from some of the great swimming holes around the Chesapeake Bay including the "back" of Dobbins Island (also know as Dutch Ship Island), where it is not unusual to find over 60 boats at anchor on a Saturday.
Consistent with social customs of the times, Belvedere was a men's club until 1993. A Ladies Auxiliary called the "Belmates" worked closely with the men's club and was essential to the planning and operation of social affairs. Many Club amenities and improvements were a direct result of Belmates efforts. During official functions where the men wore yacht club uniforms, Belmate members and officers wore distinctive green jackets with white slacks in keeping with the Belvedere club colors of green and white. It is fair to say that the Belmates were what made Belvedere a yacht club and were most likely why later pictures of the waterfront show bigger inboard powered boats tied to a full pier with water and electricity. In 1993, the bylaws were changed to allow women members. Belmates members who wished to join were accepted as members of Belvedere Yacht Club. Functions that were provided by the ladies auxiliary became the responsibility of the yacht club and its members, so the Belmates disbanded and turned their Treasury over to the Club to pay for air conditioning. In 1997, Belvedere elected Bettie Myers as its first woman Commodore, followed by Kathy Hellner in 2001 and Diana Landergren in 2002.
Belvedere has always been interested in connecting to the boating community at large. P/C George White was present and part of the founding of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Clubs Association (CBYCA) in 1958 and of the Chesapeake Commodores Club (CCC) in 1966. Belvedere was the 13th club to join CBYCA in 1960. Recently, Belvedere became a founding club of the Yacht Clubs of Maryland and will be a founding club in the formation of a new district of the Blue Gavels. During the 1960's P/C White and former DNR Secretary Bill Mathews, an avid boater, worked closely on the creation of the handy easy to use "Guide for Cruising Maryland Waters" still published today. Apparently, George and Bill were colorful members of the boating scene because, along with Past Commodore Henry Stahlin of Bodkin Yacht Club, were known as the "Unholy Trio".
Throughout much of its history, Belvedere's social interaction with other yacht clubs was modest. Beginning in the mid 1980's, several members and officers decided that if a family of yacht club members could be good then a bigger family of boating friends around the Chesapeake Bay would be even better. Since that time, Belvedere developed and continues to maintain a very active schedule involving cruises and events at other yacht clubs and is always happy to have friends from other clubs visit Belvedere by land or sea. Shenanigans with other clubs abound including kidnapped teddy bears, burgees flying in the wrong places, burgees missing, mysterious switches of items, and things "borrowed" from clubhouses. Since the mid 1990's, Belvedere has been proud to host a hospitality room at the annual CCC Commodore's Ball. Belvedere has hosted meetings at its clubhouse for many boating organizations over the years including the founding meeting for the Yacht Clubs of Maryland.
Starting in 1960 with Barbara White, Belvedere has had the honor to be represented by 18 Princesses, the most recent being Alyssa Miller in 2003. Belvedere has never had a Queen of the Chesapeake but came close in 1992 with First Runner Up Carrie Glidden. Carrie was Second Runner Up in 1991 and Belvedere will always believe was the odds on favorite in 1993 when she had to withdraw from the contest due to college commitments.
In recent years, the Club has embarked on an aggressive improvement plan including updating Clubhouse interiors and amenities, building a large waterfront deck, and upgrading the pier electrical system to modern marina standards. A number of plans are in the works. Social events remain strong with the club to include an ongoing yearly fishing competition with North Point Yacht Club. With many years of boating enjoyment behind us, Belvedere is looking forward to a bright future.top