About Wilmette Harbor Club

The rich history of Wilmette Harbor Club is captured in a pictorial history book titled Wilmette's Nautical History, prepared by a 60th Anniversary Committee in 1982 consisting of David C. Leach, Rollie B. Schmitt, and Roland D. Bautzmann. Here are some snippets from this very informative book.

Please note today the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club and Wilmette Harbor are one entity titled the Wilmette Harbor Club. The book preceded that historical event!

Lake Michigan has had almost a magic attraction to those people who have settled and lived along the North Shore. They have depended upon the lake for their drinking water, for tempering the climate by making it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and for providing recreation such as swimming, fishing and yachting. The beauty of Lake Michigan on a warm summer day is unsurpassed. In a large measure, the lake is responsible for attracting the commerce and industry which provide jobs so people can earn their living.

More than 12,000 years ago, the last glacial ice field melted and the largest body of fresh water in the world, the Great Lakes, was formed. As Lake Michigan retreated from the vicinity of Ridge Road in Wilmette to the approximate present shoreline, the Indians settled in the North Shore area.

The area was generally marshy with ridges of higher land. From the high land where downtown Winnetka now stands, there was a ridge running southward (the present day Ridge Road in Wilmette and Gross Point Road in Evanston) known as Dutchmen's Ridge to the early settlers.  There was another low ridge running along the coastline to south of the present day Wilmette Harbor where it rose up to form the Ridge known as "West Ridge" in the early days (the present day Ridge Avenue in Evanston).  "East Ridge" runs from the present downtown Evanston southward.  Between these ridges were thick forests of oak trees and marshlands which were almost uninhabitable. The big point of land that stuck out into the lake was named "Grosse Pointe" by the French explorers.

The Miami Indian Tribe controlled the area when Father Marquette explored the southern end of Lake Michigan in 1673 but the Pottawatomies drove them out in the early 1700's and settled in the North Shore area. There was an Indian Village on the high land ("West Ridge") just south of the present-day Wilmette Harbor. The Indians could get fresh water, fish for food, and use their canoes for pleasure or transportation on the lake. They were the first "North Shore Yachtsman."

Wilmette Harbor was built after the "Killer Rainstorm" of August 2-3, 1885 when 6.2 inches fell on the City of Chicago. Storm water flowed into the Chicago River and vast amounts of filth were carried into Lake Michigan.

Vowing that this should never happen again, the Sanitary District of Chicago was formed by state legislation and charged with keeping the "residential and industrial wastes from polluting Lake Michigan".

At the north end of the channel the Sanitary District built an inlet for the channel at Wilmette. In order to prevent excess sand from being carried into the canal, a 5 acre settling basin was constructed. At that time there was no thought of it being used as a harbor.

In August 1935 Representative Church got Congress to approve a survey of Wilmette Harbor by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.