Here is the story behind West End Boat Club as told by the Recording Secretary, Thom Wiernicki...
The West End Boat Club (a.k.a. WEBC) came into existence on January 3, 1898 when a Charter was granted by the presiding judge of Delaware County, Thomas J. Clayton.
From historical photographs and documents, the WEBC maintained a small facility around the river end of Market Street in Chester. The site was later to become the home of the Scott Paper Company.
As time went on the Club located itself at the foot of Jeffery Street and grew from there. At one time the Club boosted a membership in excess of 10,000 persons. These were mainly "social" members" who visited the Club on weekends to savor the bar, musical entertainment, and delicious, inexpensive meals that were being prepared by members of the Ladies Auxiliary . There was always somebody at the door and if you didn't have a membership card, well, you didn't get inside.
The meals were great and very reasonable. Average cost was about $5.00 per platter. Oh I remember it all. I was introduced to my first lobster at the WEBC. Now that started a life-long love affair. Now, that goes to show that a kid of 8 years old can fall in love.
Time marched on and the City of Chester deteriorated completely. The area around the Jeffery Street location became unsafe and patrons had problems with auto vandalism and assaults. By 1989, the membership plummeted to 2000 and less. Enter the Philadelphia Electric Company.
It seems that they wanted the Jeffery Street property. For what purpose, I have no idea and really don't care. They wanted it. Nice thing is that PECO owned some property in Essington located along the Delaware River and a tad east of Darby Creek. So, PECO and WEBC entered into a session of "Let's Make a Deal". PECO proposed that the Club could take over the property in Essington along with a tidy sum of money to get started "IF" PECO could have the Jeffery Street grounds. The WEBC decided to take what was behind "DOOR 2".
The Essington location was not exactly a box of chocolates. It basically was covered with swamp, weeds, and a lot of trees. It was totally undeveloped. During World War II, the Navy maintained an operation from the location and remnants can still be seen with rotted bulkheads sticking up from the mud. There are indications that the Quaker City Yacht Club and the Philadelphia Yacht Club operated from the same proximity. But that was "before" my time. The members held their meeting at Don's Bar on Jansen and diligently started in to formulate plans to build the "NEW" West End Boat Club. Money was tight, so the members financed the construction themselves. They floated a bond for $130,000.00 with a stipulation those bondholders would be paid back within five years.
With a lot of hard work by the members, the land was cleared, graded and construction began. In May of 1993 the NEW clubhouse was ready to open. The building was small, measuring 30 feet by 70 feet and it could handle only 100 people! But it was HOME and everybody was proud of it.
Almost immediately, they set their goals higher. If we can build this, then we can make it bigger and better. Plans were developed, finances arranged by floating another bond, and construction began anew in 2001. It was another year of hard work to build on the expansion but it was ready to be used for the Opening Day Ceremony in May 2002.
Since then, some improvements have been made to the general appearance of the grounds and
marina. But here it is today and for many tomorrows to come.
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