Apr 6, 2015

North Shore Yacht Club, Salton Sea

Located on the northeast shore of the Salton Sea in California, the aptly named North Shore Yacht Club is a place that symbolizes the area to me. On my first road trip to the Salton Sea in 2009 the Yacht Club was still an abandoned shell, however renovations had just begun. A year later I returned and toured the interior to see the amazing work that had transformed the ruin into a museum and community center. My most recent visit was just a few months ago, when I decided to photo journal this Salton Sea location in detail.

north shore yacht club images salton sea history

The North Shore Yacht Club originally opened in 1959 and became California's largest marina at the time. Designed by famed modernist architect Albert Frey, the building was the jewel of two million dollars worth of investment on the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea. 

This was the heyday, back when the Salton Sea was considered a burgeoning playground - "like Palm Springs but on the water". Prominent members of the entertainment community docked boats here, from the Marx Brothers to the Beach Boys, and it's said that through the 50s and 60s the Salton Sea was attracting more visitors than Yosemite National Park. You would've thought that the party would've lasted longer than only a few decades. It didn't.

Vintage postcard of the North Shore Yacht Club. See more here.

A vintage promotional film of the Salton Sea showcasing the new North Shore Yacht Club.

In the 70s everything nosedived and by 1984 the Yacht Club was closed. Several major floods had destroyed the marina, and boats could no longer dock. This was in combination with the increasing salinity of the Salton Sea and massive fish die-offs each year, which quickly drove the tourists away. Other notable destinations soon became ruins. Places like the North Shore Motel and the Salton Bay Yacht Club were eventually demolished. The dream had evaporated.

In a sea of sad stories, the North Shore Yacht Club is actually a bright spot. The building was saved and restored to its former glory, opening as a community center in 2010. That's not to say there aren't still major challenges and issues. The Salton Sea has been drying up, and plans to bring back the marina are welcomed, but still a long way off. 

I returned to the Yacht Club in December 2014 and met a nice woman who I spoke with for about an hour. I explained the road trip I was on, and shared the pictures I'd shot over the last few years. She gave me the keys to the Yacht Club so I could explore and photograph the interior for my series (those shots will be posted here). As a thank you I gave her my print of the earliest shot I took of the Yacht Club back in 2009. 
Holding the photo I shot of the Yacht Club in 2009. The one I gave as a gift.

I'm not sure what the future holds for the Salton Sea or the North Shore Yacht Club, but I know there are a handful of dedicated people working hard to make things happen. As I expressed in person on my brief visit, I hope my images bring some attention to what a unique place this is and why it's worth saving. I love the history here, the architecture of this building, and the idea that the Salton Sea can and will be saved.

Dave and I at the Salton Sea in 2010.

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