Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sailing Where JP Morgan Fished

When I was Laser sailing with my friend near the mouth of the Sakonnet earlier in the week, at one point we were quite close to West Island near the Sakonnet Point Lighthouse.

On the island there are three tall stone columns but no other obvious signs of any kinds of buildings. My friend wondered what they were. I had seen them before but had never bothered to investigate the story of why they were there.

So after our sail (and a few beers at Evelyn's) I did a bit of digging around on the Google and discovered that they are all that remains of an exclusive sport fishing club that operated on the island from 1864 to 1906.

The West Island Club in the late 1800s
Photo courtesy of Little Compton Historical Society

This is where the likes of JP Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt and Grover Cleveland and many other of the rich and powerful from that era came to socialize and to fish, and no doubt do a little business and lobbying on the side.

But eventually the fishing declined, the club membership dwindled, and the club closed in 1906. The club buildings fell into disrepair, a fire destroyed them in 1929, and the Great Hurricane of 1938 stripped the island clean except for those three columns.

There's much more information at The West Island Club on the Earth Sky Ocean Redux blog, and at In Search of the West Island Club on the New England Boating website.

And from that latter source also, check out this video that will give you a very good feel for what West Island and the waters around it are like today.

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