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Douglaston Manor has worn many hats

For more than 90 years now, Douglas Manor has been able to lay claim to one of the many yacht clubs that dot the shoreline of the Long Island Sound, but the history of the Douglaston Club is more than a list of schooners and clippers.

“The building we occupy was the original home of Mr. William P. Douglas, after whom Douglaston was named,” said general manager John Veneziano.

The Greek revival mansion the club uses as its home, at 600 235th St., was built in 1819 by the prominent Queens family the Van Zandts, who owned most of the property on the peninsula. Today, the grand building sits behind a wide, green lawn in the heart of the neighborhood.

Years later, the house was bought in 1862 by George Douglas, and then transferred to his son William, an international traveler, sportsman and sailor. At a time when Little Neck Bay was a recreational spot for the likes of J.P. Morgan, J.G. Bennett and Thomas Lipton, Douglas was acquiring international fame when, in 1871, his schooner, the Sappho, defended one leg of the Americas Cup race.

The current burgee — the pennant used to identify a yacht club — the Douglaston Club uses is an adaptation of Douglas’ personal symbol.

In 1906, the Douglas Manor House was sold and became the Douglaston Inn, and at this time the Van Wyck farm house, at 126 West Drive, became the Douglaston Country Club, home to an eight-hole golf course and twice weekly dancing lessons.

In 1918, the country club became the Douglaston Club, and in 1941 its 144 members bought the inn to form a cultural, recreational and educational club. It was in 1927 when the Douglaston Yacht Squadron was formed with 77 members, and today the club boasts about 70 boats, ranging from 17-foot Mulders to 42-foot Catalinas.

Members of the private club participate in seasonal parties and it has an active junior sailing program. Each year in late September, it hosts the Captain Island Race, which runs through Long Island Sound to the coast of Greenwich, Conn., and back.

“What makes us unique is where we’re situated in the community,” said Veneziano, who used to work at the Port Washington Yacht Club. “It’s a combination of a private club and also the heart of the community. Douglas Manor is comprised of about 600 homes. We’re basically the only business hub for commerce. Not everyone is a member, but I’d say a good majority are. I’d say about 70 percent live in the manor.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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