Sailing Dock

Our History

In the late 1890’s, a small group of citizens sought to establish a place where they might enjoy outdoor activities and the camaraderie of likeminded souls. On April 20, 1896, the group received a charter to establish the Country Club. Leaving the city, the founders leased property in the country, along the banks of the Elizabeth River, in what is now called Edgewater.

Although Norfolk’s city limits did not extend past the Hague at the time, the founders were convinced that others would be enticed to this rural setting to escape the congestions in the city and enjoy the amenities of the Club. The Club grew rapidly, and soon it was necessary to lease more land in order to expand the facilities. Six years later, however, it was apparent that the Club had outgrown this location. In 1902, the Club purchased a 35-acre site several miles downstream, near Sewells Point. A new, larger clubhouse was built, as well as four tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course.

During this time, new neighborhoods sprouted up in Riverview, Colonial Place and Larchmont. The primary access to them was by trolley or automobile. Unfortunately, the trolley service was not dependable, and the roads were often barely passable. The leaders of the Club soon realized they had made a mistake: The new site suffered from poor accessibility. Norfolk, on the other hand, had bold plans for a major redevelopment near this very site. Norfolk was set to be the host city for a seven-month celebration to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. The site for the festivities was Sewells Point. The Jamestown Exposition sparked a surge in constructions as Norfolk prepared to welcome the rest of the country. The Club’s leaders, not wanting to miss an opportunity, sold its Sewells Point property in 1906.

A search for another, more accessible site was begun. In 1908, a location was selected along the banks of the Lafayette River. It was convenient to the trolley line and to the bridge across the river. It had ample space for the Club’s sports facilities, along with a magnificent waterfront view. On February 22, 1909, the Country Club opened with a new clubhouse, four tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. In 1915, additional land was acquired to enlarge the golf course to eighteen holes. The golf course, regrettably, was short-lived.

As the country prepared to enter World War I, Norfolk’s leaders worked to persuade the US government that the former exposition site was an excellent center for military operations. In early 1917, the Navy leased space in a downtown office building as the headquarters of the Fifth Naval District. It wasn’t long before the Navy decided that it had to have the exposition site, and it bought the property for almost $500,000. To support the war effort and Norfolk’s growing importance as a military center, the government needed part of the Club’s new golf course for a cargo terminal. The Country Club had to give up the land that today is known as Norfolk International Terminals. About ten years later, the Club sold the remainder of its golf course; that land became Lochhaven.

In 1923, Norfolk annexed a huge tract of land that included the Country Club, and, for the first time, the Club was within the city limits. In 1927, in deference to this fact, the Club voted to change its name to the Norfolk Country Club. Within a few years, the Club attracted the attention of yachtsmen who believed that the waterfront location was an excellent place for a marina. In recognition of this popular new addition to the Club’s activities, the Club changed its name once more in January, 1936, to the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club.

In just 40 years, the little Club founded on a small, leased site in Edgewater had become a prominent fixture on the banks of the Lafayette River. In these early years, the Club flourished and faltered, reflecting the fortunes of its membership and the city at large. The next sixty years were times of unparalleled growth for both Norfolk and the Club. Surely, there were more bumps along the way, but Norfolk and the Club prospered under the leadership that had the vision to dream of great things and the courage to implement them.

Information Compiled By Ms. Susan Roady.