On The Yard


    Naval Academy Club History from a Fascinating Historian

    By Bill the Goat on March 28, 2022

    Naval Academy Club History from a Fascinating Historian

    Clubs were an integral part of colonial life (and before), allowing news to flow, information to be shared, bonds to be created and friendships to be made. Jim Cheevers, the retired associate director, senior curator and self-proclaimed “relic” of the USNA Museum in Preble Hall, shared a snippet of the fascinating story of the history of the Naval Academy Club with us.

    In 1906, as the “New Academy” of Ernest Flagg’s vision came to life, the Naval Academy Club was born. It opened its doors at its present location on Truxtun Road, an impressive example of the elegant Beaux-Arts architecture that had begun to grace the Yard. It was called the Naval Academy Officers Club, “O Club” or simply “The Club” for short.


    Humble Beginnings

    The Naval Academy Club has remained intact since its founding over a century ago. The lower level has always been home to dining and entertainment options. This social club brought together naval officers for exciting domino and card games, celebrations of sporting events, strategizing about current events and rousing conversation and comradery.



    In the early portion of the 20th century, the lower deck of the Club hosted a bowling alley. Cheevers recalls meeting a gentleman, George Belt, who remembered fondly his days of working in the bowling alley in the 1940s setting pins. As a nod to the old bowling alley, after renovation to convert the space to a restaurant, the cozy dining establishment was named, The Alley Restaurant. Currently, the old bowling sign still commemorates the foul line at the entrance of the bar area.


    Dance Party

    Giving him a first-hand account, Cheevers joined the Naval Academy O Club in 1967. In those days, military officers of GS7 rank or above could become members. Thrilled to be a part of this social club, Cheevers and his friends would head to the lower deck for happy hour to play shuffleboard, relax at the bar and take a spin on the dance floor. He recalls with a laugh that the bartender would hold a spot for his friend, Leann, with a martini glass filled to the brim with water and an olive. “Leann and I loved the staff; the people were so nice and I liked the ambience,” he says.


    Fine Dining

    The first deck of the Club has always boasted expansive and beautifully appointed dining areas that frequently hosted lunch and dinner. On Sunday mornings, these rooms were packed. After the Catholic, non-denominational and Protestant services at the Chapels on the Yard, the Club was the place for brunch.


    Ceremonial Traditions

    While Club members enjoyed brunching and lunching in the Club, the first deck dining spaces also hosted numerous official dinners. Guests were surrounded by historical naval images portraying Midway, Coral Sea and Leyte Gulf, the battles that gave the rooms their names. The lovely Naval Academy Club has hosted family events, weddings, showers, funerals, graduations, retirements and more, all steeped in naval tradition in a historic venue.

    Two notable events top Cheevers’ many memorable moments at the Club. The first occurred in 1973, when the U.S. Naval Institute celebrated its 100th birthday at the Naval Academy Club. The Chief of Naval Operations and Senior Admiral of the Navy, Elmo Zumwalt (then serving as honorary president), were present. They requested the use of Admiral David Dixon Porter’s sword to cut the birthday cake. The use of Porter’s sword held great significance as he had served as the honorary president of the Institute in 1873.

    A second notable event occurred on January 13, 2006; it harkens to Admiral Porter’s legacy. Admiral Porter had brought enlisted marines in 1865 to set an example for the midshipmen and provide security. After 1881, Naval Academy graduates could enter the Marine Corps, and marine instructors and professors later taught at the Academy. The USNA maintained a close association with the marine security detail throughout this time, but stopped using enlisted security guards in 2006. The Club’s ceremony for disestablishment of the marine barracks in Annapolis was “sad in a way, but interesting,” Cheevers remembers, “We had uniformed marines stand guard in the museum and the crypts and gates for years, so we had gotten to know them.” Time and tradition march on.

    Cheevers continues to be an active member, with fifty-five years of membership and counting. He recounts many good memories at the Naval Academy Club. In fact, if you see Cheevers at the Club and want to hear a good story and enjoy a chuckle, be sure to ask him about Porter’s sword at his retirement party that he held at the Club. Like many Club members, he is looking forward to building many more memories on the Yard.



    As times changed, Naval Academy Club membership evolved, too. In 1976, the Academy welcomed its first class of female midshipmen, and the Club also welcomed women to its membership. More recently, it has opened membership to eligible civilians. You can learn more about membership here.

    The Naval Academy Club also recently underwent a refresh. The rooms continue to nod towards past naval history, but do so now with a more modern, airier look. The maritime artwork, created by former Naval Academy graduates and local artists, features local sites around the Yard and in Annapolis.

    NAC New

    NAC renovation

    new Naval academy club

    Along with the new surroundings, the brunch remains a praiseworthy experience for members of the Club. Naval Academy Catering is headquartered at the Naval Academy Club and provides delicious locally influenced meals for gatherings at the Club and across the Yard.

    Although the times and the décor have changed, the purpose of the Naval Academy Club remains true to its beginnings. As it celebrates over 116 years itself, the Naval Academy Club continues to be a special place of celebration, remembrance and connection for both military and non-military members and their guests. It has served an intimate role in many of their most important life events, and provides discounts and perks that make it an integral part of Yard life.

    The NABSD is happy to support the midshipmen through the Naval Academy Club. Proceeds from your visits to the Naval Academy Club also support the Brigade of Midshipmen. Come experience this wonderful setting founded in Navy tradition. We look forward to welcoming you to the Club! And for those of you who already belong to the Naval Academy Club, we'd love to read about some of your fondest memories.

    Bill the Goat
    Written by Bill the Goat | March 28, 2022


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