CLUBHOUSE RENTAL AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS ONLY!
Yacht clubs are usually associated with the ocean, but there is at least one that has a history of service to boat owners in the middle of Florida. That’s the Lake Weir Yacht Club, organized in 1909 at The Oaks, a private lake home in East Lake Weir in south Marion County.
Lake Weir was originally called Lake Ware for a Dr. Ware, who figured prominently in the history of Florida. Prior to 1900, visitors from the north went to Lake Weir during November and December via the Atlantic Coast Line railroad to Waresdale Station (now Weirsdale) then took a carriage to the Lakeside Hotel. Many others owned cottages around the lake, and they would come to Florida for the winter, arriving in Jacksonville by steamer, and then go to Weirsdale by train.
These were people like Mr. Goodwin, editor of the Chicago Gazette, the W.H. Bickley family, who owned the amusement center in Asbury Park, N.J., the Schnitzler family, who owned the largest ferris wheel in the world at Asbury Park, the US Ambassador to Franc, the Haskells, who imported tea from china, the Bradfords who owned a large furniture store in Nashville, Tenn., and others.
The Bradfords lived in the house where the FBI corned Ma Barker and her son in 1935, and killed them when they refused to surrender and opened fire with their machine guns.
The Lakeside Hotel had its own launch for pleasure cruised around the lake and for transporting its guests to parties in private homes on the lake. In addition to the hotel’s boat, there was the Billiken, which could take 40 passengers, and the Della, a steam launch that could transport 50 passengers.
These visitors from the north came in all during the winter months because the temperature of the lake never dropped so low they couldn’t swim every day. Lake residents said the water was 99.9 percent pure and had it piped into their cottages for drinking purposes. It is also a fact that the white sand on the bottom of the lake was so superior for use in building operations that it was pumped out and shipped all over Florida.
Another interesting fact about the lake is that the only doctor between Leesburg and Ocala, Dr. H.W. Henry of Ocklawaha, used his boat, day and night, in good weather and bad, to reach the sick and deliver babies up and down the lake shore. He later moved to Ocala.
The community of Lake Weir was founded in 1874 and was reported in the 1930s as having a population of 125, A large citrus packing house and orange and grapefruit groves were scattered all over the white sand hills of the area around the lake. Weirsdale, also on the lake, was larger in the 1930s with a population of 303, and it had four packing houses. Fruit shipped from the area for many years carried on its wooden boxes the picture of a blue goose and the fruit gained a fine reputation as “the blue goose fruit”.
Because of the boating activity on Lake Weir, the Lake Weir Yacht Club was organized on March 23, 1909. The first officers were: Commodore – W.R. Goodwin, Eastlake; Vice-Commodore, H.W. Henry, Jr., Ocklawaha; Secretary, D.S. Woodrow, Eastlake; Treasurer, Z.C. Chambliss, Ocala; Executive Committee, W.R. Goodwin, D.S. Woodrow, H.W. Henry, Jr., W.S. Bickley, Weirsdale; C.W. Willard, South Lake Weir; F.E. Haskell, Weirsdale; L.R. Chazel, Ocala; John Meffert, Ocala; A.A. Bartlett, Weirsdale and A.J. Leavengood, Stanton.
The objective of the club was stated in its constitution as follows: “To unite owners of launches on Lake Weir in closer affiliation; to hold launch parades, water carnivals, races, and picnics and other functions, and to protect and promote fishing in Lake Weir.” The membership fee was one dollar and after that the dues were one dollar annually, payable the first of February.
Minutes of the club indicate that the clubhouse that stands today was opened in February of 1913. A history of the yacht club reported on its activities, as follows: “Often members came by boat in the afternoons, enjoying swimming, dancing and games. A piano was purchased, a victrola and records and one member donated a billiard table. In the evening, everyone dressed for dinner dish each had brought… The commodore for the year was host at each dinner, and his wife hostess.
"About 8:30 in the evening the Atlantic Coast Line train brought members and their guests from Ocala, to the special dances and entertainment at least once each week. The largest part of the membership was from Ocala. They were dressed in evening clothes, wearing their best jewelry. The diamonds flashed as they caught the light of the gaslight lamps hanging from the ceiling.
" On the same train came the orchestra to play for the dance. The train attendants – conductor, fireman and engineer – were all delighted to get some of the delicious meal as they let the passengers off right in front of the clubhouse door. One might say this was an accommodation train, and the engineer made a point of refilling the engine tender with water from the water tank in East Lake. It gave them an excuse to stand longer.
"The friendship between the train attendants lasted until the trains stopped operating on the tracks. After the orchestra had a bit of refreshments, they made their way up the short stairs to the orchestra loft, right over the entrance, the east entrance. The fiddlers tuned the “A: string pluck", others tuned their instruments to match the tone, and the feet began to shuffle, the voices to sing, the whistlers to join the tune, the ladies to sway and the clubhouse was a hum of rhythm.
“The midnight train, coming up from the south, stopped at the clubhouse to pick up the passengers going back to Ocala, as well as the members of the orchestra. This train crew also got refreshments before beginning the journey back to Ocala.”
During the 1960s and the 1970s, many improvements were made to the clubhouse, as indicated by the minutes of the Lake Weir Club, as it is now called. Today, the area around the lake is in a period of growth with residential developments springing up everywhere. In 2013, members celebrated the 100th anniversary of the clubhouse building.
Source: History of the Lake Weir Yacht Club, Florida Living, February, 1987