In the summer of 1929 Fort Worth businessmen, George Q. McGown and E.P. “Skinny” Haltom built a 15 foot flat bottomed wooden boat suitable for sailing as well as rowing or motoring about Lake Worth. The little vessel caught on with Fort Worth’s fledging boating community and soon the two men asked Marion Herring, owner of a Lake Worth marina, to build 10 more of the “Minnow” boats for other friends. People were so taken with the boats that soon Herring floored some of his marina slips to create changing rooms for the sailors.
Even as the economy faltered and the nation tipped into the terrifying years of the Great Depression, interest in boating surged. By 1931 a small group of men organized The Fort Worth Boat Club “dedicated to advance the community’s knowledge, enjoyment and appreciation of boating and the nautical arts through its facilities and programs.” McGown was elected Commodore and Haltom Vice-Commodore.
It didn’t take long for club members to become interested in bigger and faster boats and William Crosby, editor of Rudder magazine, knew what to do with that new awareness. Already enchanted with this sailing outpost in the southwestern prairie, Crosby offered to design a 20’ keelboat for the club, in exchange for 50 subscriptions to his magazine. He called the vessel the “Longhorn” as a salute to its north Texas heritage. Members gathered at a warehouse on Rosedale Avenue to build five Longhorns.
As more people joined the boating enthusiasts a racing series began. Before long a small clubhouse “with facilities” was built on the shore near Herring’s Lake Worth dock, but soon club members were angling for something bigger on Eagle Mountain Lake where the winds would be stronger and less temperamental.
Some of the Eagle Mountain shoreline was owned by Fort Worth businessman John Burgess and his wife who donated 13.5 acres to the new club, providing a suitable clubhouse would be erected and that it operate for five years, after which time the grant be made permanent.
A club house that passed muster was built, the road eventually paved. Generators gave way to electricity. Women began to compete in regattas. Children’s programs were established. The harbor was enlarged. Sailing lessons for every age became an important part of the agenda. A swimming pool and tennis courts were added. Cabanas were built. The club house was revamped and a professional manager engaged and along the way traditions were born.
Club members sailed in races all over the world and brought home trophies for their skill.The club actively supported the Mariner syndicate for the Americas Cup competition and in 1971 club member Perry Bass won the World Ocean Racing Championship with Ted Turner.
Through the years the Fort Worth Boat Club continued to grow, surviving more than one faltering economy; hanging on through wars, droughts, floods, wind storms and even a fire to become a Fort Worth institution, a family-friendly sanctuary, with a national reputation for boating excellence.
A more complete club history can be found under the Member’s Only tab of this website.