John Cox Stevens' Yacht Club
The Americas and the Maria
The story begins with the oldest of Colonel John's sons, John Cox Stevens (1785-1857), a sportsman who was a founding member of the New York Yacht Club. The organizational meeting of the club was held upon his yacht, "Gimcrack," in 1844.
The first clubhouse of the New York Yacht Club was built on the Stevenses' Hoboken estates just north of Castle Point in 1848, and John Cox Stevens was the first commodore of the club. Now, John Cox Stevens and his brother, Edwin, also a later commodore of the club, were part of a well-to-do group of members who built the yacht "America" according to the designs of John Steers, the famous yachting architect. This yacht sailed to England in 1851, and, with John Cox and Edwin aboard she defeated the field of the Royal Yacht Squadron in the Cowes regatta around the Isle of Wight.
The "America" received an elegant and ornate silver cup worth some 100 pounds as a trophy. Later, in 1859 the New York Yacht Club dedicated the prize as a perpetual international challenge cup open to competition from premier foreign yacht clubs wishing to challenge the best yacht from the United States. This was, of course, the origin of today's America's Cup -- another part of the Stevens legacy.
A postscript to this story is perhaps apocryphal: it is said that before the yacht "America" sailed for its victory in England in 1851 she was defeated in New York waters by the "Maria," a yacht designed and built by the family marine engineer, Robert Livingston Stevens of ferryboat and railroad fame.