Completed in 1913, the Dayton Canoe Club building reflects the Progressive Era interest in social and health benefits of outdoor recreation and exercise.
In the Dayton area, as recreation on and around the rivers became popular, boathouses, clubhouses, and dance halls sprang up along the Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad Rivers.
This interest in activity surrounding our rivers has recently had a resurgence in the Dayton area.
Architecturally, the Dayton Canoe Club building reflects the influence of the early 20th century Arts and Craft Movement with its emphasis on simplicity and natural materials. The two-story building with stone lower story and overhanging veranda above appears to emerge naturally from the banks of the Great Miami River, while from Riverside Drive it appears to be one story, gently extending above the horizon.
Still in use today, it is one of only two active Canoe Clubs in its original building and location that remain in the United States.
In 2007, this Dayton Original was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Being located on four rivers, none of sufficient size for navigation, yet large enough to make canoeing on them a sport to be enjoyed in all its phases, Dayton had among its population many canoe enthusiasts, not a few of whom had for a long time dreamed of a real canoe club. " stated a pamphlet given at the opening of the Dayton Canoe Club.
"Late in the fall of 1912 a canoe club was talked of and the Dayton Canoe Club was organized with but fourteen members."
One of those men was Charles W. Schaeffer. Although a charter member and past Commodore of the Stillwater Canoe Club on Stillwater Avenue (now Riverside Drive), he wanted to start another canoe organization. The Stillwater Canoe Club, by virtue of its small clubhouse, had to limit its number of members that could join.
"Meetings were held, a club house was planned and lovers of the canoe and paddle were not slow in realizing the many advantages to be gained in being a member of the new Club.
Other canoeist were enthused about the idea. Schaeffer was suggesting a club that was more than a place to store their canoes. His dream was to have a ballroom for dancing, a veranda with chairs to overlook the river, and a club room for relaxing. Within three months the membership had grown to fifty canoeists.
The Dayton Canoe Club was incorporated on December 17, 1912. The corporation was not for profit and formed for the purpose of the encouragement of aquatic sports and the promotion of social relations among its members.
"A site was selected just below the confluence of the Miami and the Stillwater and on December 23, 1912, ground was broken for the new Clubhouse."
The Dayton Canoe Club went before the Dayton city council and applied for a lease on the levee, just south of the Stillwater Canoe Club. The members pledged that their club would be an asset to the community. The lease was granted.
Construction of the new club was going well. The lower level quickly progressed and framing was almost complete in three months.
Suddenly, on March 25, 1913, the greatest flood in Dayton's recorded history washed over the city. Damage to the city was enormous. Over 1,000 homes were destroyed, and 2,000 more would later be razed due to damage.
The pamphlet tells of the Dayton Canoe Club members fears. "....when the waters of the never-to-be-forgotten calamity had receded, many were the members who wended their way to the site of the new Clubhouse, expecting to find destruction, as elsewhere, but hoping for the best. But the Fates which brought the flood were kind to us. Possibly Neptune, understanding that we three, the water, the canoe and the individual, were inseparable friends, interceded and had the angry waters pass up, around, and even through our uncompleted Clubhouse, doing but little damage."
The Stillwater Canoe Club wasn't as fortunate. It was pushed off of its foundation and washed against the Steele Dam down river. The Stillwater Canoe Club was later set back upon its foundation and rebuilt at a cost of $1,500.
"When on June 11 (1913), the building was completed and the members with their many friends saw and understood what it meant in convenience, location and beauty they were satisfied."
Below, at river level, was the real club's pride and joy. 42 dry storage canoe lockers were available to the members. All of the lockers were 18 1/2 feet deep to accommodate almost any canoe. Five double doors opened to the outside, with the river only a few feet away. A concrete dock ran the length of the clubhouse, giving members easy access to and from the river. A separate room for changing clothes was available, as well as room for the club's caretaker to live in. The cost of building the club, plus the furnishings, came to approximately $15,000.
"Provided with every modern equipment the most captious can suggest, we have in the clubhouse the long dreamed of and much desired ideal.
"Only seven minutes ride from the heart of town, on a hot summer's afternoon or evening, members with their friends can rest on the veranda, with the cool, refreshing, sweet scented breezes, or with their canoes upon the waters enjoy the beautiful shaded banks of the Miami or Stillwater in the day or the wonderful quieting moonlight in the evening."
Charles Schaffer's dream had come true.