Carmen Ohio, Columbus City Water, and BLYC

Commodore Steve Harris – February, 2017

Charles “Brownie” Cornell was the Commodore of BLYC in 1924. He is one of only four of BLYC’s Commodores for whom I haven’t found a photograph – which is odd. Not odd that a photograph may not exist for someone who live so long ago, but definitely odd as “Brownie” wasn’t just any member of the Club.

He was apparently a very active member, very involved in the central Ohio community, and particularly quite the character too. The August 10, 1921 issue of Motorboat reported on the “new” feature of powerboat racing at the annual I-LYA Regatta at Put-in-Bay. Included in said article was the following, “A comical feature was added to the sailing program by Brownie Cornell of the Buckeye Lake Y.C. The first boat finishing in the ladies’ cat boat class was that of Cornell, who had ‘dolled up’ as a woman.” I guess there’s a long tradition of BLYC members’ “interesting” behavior at PIB.

OK, not having a picture of a cross-dressing sailor might not be odd, but while obviously quite a character, Brownie was much more. Commodore Cornell was one of the chief engineers on both the O’Shaunessey and Hoover Dams – providing water for the City of Columbus. There is a small, relatively unknown, park dedicated to him on the east side of the Hoover Reservoir. The plaque designating the park reads,


Dedicated in Honor of
C.B. “Brownie” Cornell
Who devoted his life to the developmet
and construction of water supply facilities.
His foresight and outstanding abilities in
his chose field are everywhere evident
in the Columbus Water System.

Pretty impressive! Our friends at Hoover Sailing and Leatherlips Yacht Clubs owe, in part, the existence of the waters they sail on to a Past Commodore of BLYC.

Oh… and what does Carmen Ohio have to do with all of this? At one of the BLYC Tailgate Parties this fall, P/C John Geiger asked the trivia question, “Who wrote Carmen Ohio?” At the time, I felt like I knew the answer, but just couldn’t come up with it. I was certain that I’d read it somewhere before. As it turns out, I read it in the BLYC Log! In Commodore Limes’ “Did You Know…” article in the March, 1982 Log, he mentioned Commodore Cornell and his works as an architect and engineer. He went on to elaborate that “It was Commodore Cornell’s brother Fred who wrote the words of Carmen Ohio, OSU’s Alma Mater… The year was 1902, four years before the founding of BLYC.” I’m not sure if Fred Cornell was ever a member of BLYC. I’ll have to do some research and see if I can find any old directories from that time. Either way, I think that he and his Commodore brother would be pleased withthe OSU spirit shown by our BLYC members today. Go Bucks!

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