The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Recreation on the River: The Pastime Boat Club

The story of the Pastime Boat Club illuminates the history of one of the many clubs that Louisville had, and still has, along the river which provided locals with various forms of recreation. Incorporated in 1895, the Pastime Boat Club was formed by Tom Hines and his friends who enjoyed spending time on the river and were dissatisfied with existing organizations such as the Louisville Boat Club and the Turners. The young men purchased a houseboat in 1896, which docked at First and River Streets. With growth in membership, the next few years saw the construction of a new clubhouse boat, the additions of men’s and women’s cabins, and regular parties and picnics.

Pastime Boat Club Cruising Area, no date

In 1901 when the houseboat was at Portland Wharf for repairs, a holding line broke and the boat, along with all the club’s possessions, was destroyed. The members regrouped and purchased a new boat the next year. After this boat was also nearly destroyed, the club purchased land and moved the house boat from the Louisville Wharf, eventually bringing it up onto the land at 3015 River Road. Louisville architect James J. Gaffney, an officer of the club, designed its permanent boathouse in 1922. The club owned outrigger boats and sailboats, and members kept launches on the property. Members cooked aboard the house boat and on camp fires on the shore and conducted rowing parties. Along with boating, the club members participated in tennis and baseball and some built small cabins, all on the club’s property.  

The later 1920s saw the addition of a golf course and a dock, but in 1937 much of the club was destroyed during the great flood. Once again, club members pulled together and survived. By the 1940s the club shifted from rowboats and shore cooking to a full-service dining room in the boathouse and day-long boating parties on yachts. The Pastime Boat Club’s name changed to the Louisville Yacht Club in 1962, and in 1968 the organization disbanded. Sadly, the historic club house was destroyed in a fire on January 28, 1970. Today the area is occupied by Kingfish Restaurant and River House Restaurant and Raw Bar. River recreation continues to be popular today at clubs such as the Turner’s, the Louisville Boat Club, the Louisville Rowing Club, and the River Valley Club.

River Outing, ca. 1910

Other boating clubs, such as the Jeffersonville Motor Boat Club (photo July 1919) also thrived on the Ohio