The Sayres and Sayre Marina

Commodore Steve Harris, July 2018

1932 “Buckeye Lake Guide” Advertisment

Before there was a Buckeye Lake Yacht Club, there was a “Sayre Marina.” In 1904, Mr. William Henry Sayre built a two-stall boathouse, with living quarters above, just east of “Sunken Island” along Northbank. Henry & Mary Sayre had three sons ─ Earl, Fred, and Raymond ─ and a daughter, Eva. Henry Sayre, along with sons Earl and Raymond, all appear in the 1906 BLYC Member Directory and are assumed to have been charter members of the Club. This directory lists their professional affiliation as “Sayre and Sons, Newark.” Henry Sayre repaired boats and sold boat supplies from his Northbank location. The three sons would later take over the family business and change the name to Sayre Brothers Marina. In the 1920’s, Earl and his wife Blanche also operated a restaurant, open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, located just west of the Marina (presumably the location of the current yellow house below the dam).

When BLYC located on “Sunken Island” (now Watkins Island) in 1907, and built the original Clubhouse, Henry Sayre became our first “caretaker.” He was very active on the building committee and could frequently be found working on improvements to the Club’s new home. At the Club’s 3rd “Tar Social,” held in Newark on December 17, 1908, in recogntion of Mr. Sayre’s service to BLYC, as caretaker, “improver of the island,” one of its hardest working members, and in demonstration of the high esteem in which he was held, the Club extended Mr. Sayre’s membership for the rest of his life without further payment of dues ─ making him BLYC’s first Honorary Life Member.

Henry & Mary Sayre c. 1920 at BLYC

At the time of its closing, Sayre Brothers was the oldest continously operating Chris Craft dealership in the United States. In 1926, Edgar T. Wolfe, Sr. (BLYC Commodore, 1934) traveled to New York for a boat show. While there he took a fancy to the Chris Craft line of boats. He told the company representatives that he would purchase one, but only if he could get it serviced at Buckeye Lake. The company contacted Fred Sayre and he answered that he would be happy to service Mr. Wolfe’s boat, but only if Sayre Brothers was given a franchise… which they were ─ one of the first two ever issued. Incidentally, according to a letter to BLYC from early member Frank Miller, Chris Smith, founder of Chris Craft, held membership in BLYC in the 1930’s. It is believed that this was likely a result of the close relationship between Chris Craft and the Sayre Brothers Marina.

Fred Sayre had a daughter, Blanche, and one son, Bud. Growing up on the shores of Buckeye Lake, Bud was always “messing around with boats.” However, he had little interest in taking over the family’s marina business. He wanted to become a grocer. But, while Bud was serving in World War II, both his father and his uncle Earl passed away. Returning home from the war, he found two recently widowed women and an aged uncle who needed his help to keep the businesss operating. He assisted them and gradually assumed the helm of the operation. Following the death of his wife, Fran, Bud married Zenna and gave the business to his new wife. He continued to serve as an advisor until his death in 1997. Zenna continued operation of the Marina until its eventual closing in 2008.
Over the years, the relationship between the Sayres and BLYC has been a strong one. While Fred never joined BLYC, his father, brothers, and son were all members and the marina provided great service to the Club or many years. Prior to the installation of our hoist at Eastport, Sayres would haul in and out all of the visiting sailboats at the annual Snowball Regatta free of charge. They also did the same for the Classic Boat Show for many years. Bud and Zenna were also very helpful and instrumental in the development and growth of the Boat Show through the years. In 1996, Bud and Zenna donated the mahogany for the “new” bar at BLYC ─ now one of the most iconic highlights of our Club. Zenna continued to be active in the Club and with the BLYC Auxiliary until her death in 2015.

The original Sayre Marina c. 1905

Reflecting on her family’s long association with BLYC at the time of our Centennial, Zenna thoughtfully remarked, “At eighty-three, in this one-hundredeth year of the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club, I am still active in the Club as a perpetual Distaff; I have been a member of the Ladies Auxiliary since my introduction to the Yacht Club in 1974. If you are lucky enough to work by the water and have a beautiful Club to walk to, you are lucky enough.”
Like many early landmarks of the lake, Sayres’ Marina is now gone. But it should not be forgotten. Commodore Tim Ryan and I are working to include a small, permanent display recognizing the marina and the long-standing friendship between the Sayres and BLYC upstairs in the new Cupola Lounge.


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