The West Side Rowing Club was established in 1912 by a group of Hibernians (Irish Catholics) who lived on the west side of Buffalo, hence the name.
The construction of the first clubhouse was spearheaded by Michael J Byrne on a site on the Black Rock Channel opposite Breckenridge Street. The story was that some of the wood used in the building came from the remains of the All Saints Church which had burned. The first boats the club owned came from Columbia University and the Union Boat Club in New York City. Mike Byrne had arranged for their purchase and transportation on the Erie Canal.
Mike Bryne did the club another great favor when he brought his apprentice plasterer, Mike Broderick, to West Side in 1913. The two of them served as West Side Presidents for a total of 38 years with Mike Broderick holding the record at 35 years.
In the mid-1920s the club had to vacate its original site due to expansion of the sewer disposal plant. As if by magic, the City of Buffalo authorized the building of the new boathouse south of Ferry Street. West Side moved in and stayed for 50 years until the building burned in 1975.
Immediately after the fire, efforts were launched to acquire land for a new facility. The current site was identified, but it was subject to a permit from the Federal government and getting the rights to it was deemed next to impossible. The next four years was spent dealing with the State Legislator, the New York Thruway Authority, the City of Buffalo and six state agencies in order to get title to the land on which the club now sits.
Much of the work in building the new facility was done by the members because of a shortage of funding. The building was completed and dedicated five years to the day after the fire. The late Mayor, Jimmy Griffin called the facility the first waterfront improvement done without government money.
Although started as a men’s club, the West Side Rowing Club has a long tradition of youth rowing. In 1921, West side started public high school rowing and was the first club in the country to sponsor public schools. As a result there was a constant supply of new rowers coming into the club. Thousands and thousands of young people have learned to row at West Side. Women’s rowing started in 1978, and, as of now, the female rowers outnumber males.
Over the years, West Side Rowers have represented the United States at the Olympics, Pan American Games, the World Youth Championships and the European Championships.
West Side has always been run by volunteer officers and directors who have steered the Club through both good and difficult times. The result of those efforts is that the Club is still available to the youth of Western New York.
West Side Rowing Club Archives:
Flynn, Carlton J. "West Side Oars: A History of the West Side Rowing Club 1912-1948." 342 hand typed pages.