Duluth Boat Club

The hotel is located on a very historic site famously occupied by the legendary Duluth Boat Club.

Our architects used pictures and information from the book Invincible by Michael Cochran to attain some of the attention to historic detail for both the exterior and interior of the hotel.

The hotel has partnered with the St. Louis County Historical Society and Michael Cochran to provide unique revolving exhibits of artifacts, banners, trophies, and pictures of the Boat Club in our hotel for the enjoyment of the guests for generations to come.

The Duluth Boat Club was officially incorporated on July 10, 1886. The membership fee was $50.00 with quarterly dues of $2.50 and there were 28 charter members. 700 people attended the opening reception where 12 waiters served lake trout and lobster salad.

The Duluth Daily News termed it the social event of the season. The club house opened with 33 boats. In 1895 Duluth’s population was 59,396. A new boathouse building was built on a new site in 1903 on Park Point in the general area to the current hotel grounds. In 1903 the club had 250 members and a waiting list to join.

The facility was expanded to include a café and a prime rib dinner that cost 50 cents. The club had two tennis courts for its members for enjoyment away from the water. The courts were the finest in Minnesota and the surrounding states. The club hosted the state tennis tournament for many years.

In 1904 the club claimed to be the largest water club in North America with over 700 members. The dance floor was considered to be the finest floor in northern Minnesota. As dances and entertainment were a big part of the club, there is no record of liquor ever being served or consumed at the boat club, in accordance with the wishes of their president, Julius Barnes. In 1909 the club referred to itself as the greatest sports organization in the world. In 1912 you could rent a 22 foot canoe for 25 cents an hour. In 1913 the club had a membership of 1,400 people. In 1916 the national regatta was held in Duluth. The Natatorium (an indoor swim center) was opened in 1917 at a cost of $75,000 and housed a heated pool building with dressing rooms. The pool was the finest and largest swimming facility in all of Minnesota. Nationally famous swimmers came to compete in this ultra modern facility. Johnny Weissmuller, an Olympic swimming champion, who would go on to play Tarzan, won his first major swimming race at the Duluth Boat Club.

Various activities were enjoyed at the club beyond rowing and sculling. Log rolling, water baseball, and war canoe racing were enjoyed by members

Once a year the club would have ladies day where ladies would be given the opportunity to demonstrate their athletic prowess.

During this time the city of Duluth proclaimed to be the zenith city of the unsalted seas.

There was a period in time when oarsmen of the club dominated in North American rowing. There was one group of 4 men who were never defeated in 22 elite races and were named the “Invincible Four”. The club also included a young man who became the single sculling champion of the world and an international celebrity. Walter Hoover at the 1921 national championships in Buffalo gained national renown by winning the intermediate single, senior single, and the quarter mile dash.

This all happened at a time when amateur rowing was closely followed by the general public and reported in all major newspapers. The stories of these rowing races were on the front pages of the New York Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, Boston Globe, and the Times of London.

The boat club encouraged activities for young men and women but set strict limits. The official boat club policy on these matters can be inferred from a notice concerning club dances that was published in the club log in 1920:

“Dancers please note!
We request that it should again be necessary to call attention of a few of our members to the rules against “cheek to cheek” dancing …. The club is no place for “cheek to cheek”, the shimmy, or other late vulgar forms of modern dancing. The club has always had the reputation of giving the best dances in the city, the type of dances mothers will allow their daughters to attend without the least hesitation. We are proud of that reputation and we are going to continue to give those sort of dances.”

Complete commitment was why the club was so successful in competition. The dedicated oarsmen of the club slept in the bunkhouse at the club. They woke up every day at 6:00 AM with lights out at 10:00 PM. The club built a dormitory, kitchen, and dinner room specifically for them, and hired a cook and housekeeper for their needs. A special diet was planned and implemented for their training regimen.

The legacy of the Duluth Boat Club lives on in the Duluth Rowing Club, Duluth Yacht Club, and other organizations dedicated to serve all of the community members, and pride themselves on their rich heritage and origins. The Duluth Yacht Club hosts its Wednesday night races every summer and the Duluth Rowing Club annually hosts the Duluth International Regatta, which is one of the largest rowing events in the upper Midwest.

We are proud to have our hotel on these historic grounds and have made a commitment to provide a guest service experience worthy of the heritage, history, and honor of the Duluth Boat Club. With all due respect to Club President Julius Barnes, we do however encourage cheek to cheek dancing at any time in the hotel, at breakfast, in the lobby, on your deck, or in the privacy of your room. With such romantic and beautiful views from the hotel patio and your room deck, how could we stop you from enjoying your time at our facility. Come and enjoy cheek to cheek activities without any restrictions.