In 1943 the Indianapolis Water Company (IWC) dammed up Fall Creek to create a reservoir, covering 18,000 acres and containing over 7 billion gallons of water. Built as a water source for the city of Indianapolis, Geist Reservoir was used by only a few fishermen for the next dozen years.
In November, 1954 Jack Messmer, a local builder and visionary, who had a love of sailing in his German blood, gathered some of his sailing buddies at the Athenaeum to form a sailing group. Jack had discussed the possibility of organizing a sailing club on the Reservoir with his friend Howard "Scotty" Morse, IWC president. During the next few months, this group of eager sailors met regularly to formulate a constitution, by-laws, a set of strict safety rules, and legal documents to lease land from the IWC for a clubhouse site and docking facilities. Much credit and appreciation must be given to the founding members: Jack Messmer, John Buehler, lawyer-sailor Bill Krieg, Charlie Buschmann, C.E."Scotty" Wilcox, Bud Hook, Frank Welcher and others during this early period.
On February 24, 1955 IWC president "Scotty" Morse signed a 10 year lease with the Indianapolis Sailing Association, granting the use of 13+ acres of land and sailing privileges on Geist Reservoir. Sailing on the lake had become a reality.
During the next few months an increasing number of would-be sailors signed on as charter members and the newly formed Board of Directors was busy building a clubhouse on a scenic spot overlooking the lake and setting up mooring and docking facilities. In June 1955, the goal of 200 charter members was reached and the membership was closed. On June 19, 1955 a Grand Opening was held on the present clubhouse grounds, with over 80 boats represented, and over 300 members and guests in attendance. Commodore Jack Messmer was presented with a key to the premises by Scotty Morse, the Commodore's flag was hoisted from the yardarm, and the Indianapolis Sailing Association was officially launched. The original classes of sailboats at ISC were Snipes, Lightnings, Thistles, Y-Flyers and with a large number of other one-design boats in the Handicap fleet.
On March 11, 1957 at the Annual meeting, ISC members voted to change the name to Indianapolis Sailing Club. John Buehler donated a large, well-equiped pontoon boat with a canopy for a race committee boat. The Mary Polk Morse made her maiden voyage on June 2, 1957. This venerable Race Committee boat has served ISC well through the ensuing years. Ice boating also began in that year.
In February, 1957 an adventuresome group of 30 ISC sailors trailored their boats to Florida and cruised along the Florida Keys, from Miami to Key West, in their open boats. Thus began the Indianapolis Cruising Club. Since then this group has made many winter cruises on charter yachts in the Caribbean, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Greece, and Central America, to name a few.
In 1970. The Army Corps of Engineers proposed to raise the height of Geist Reservoir by 29 feet to create what was to be called "Highland Lake". If that plan had been carried out, most, if not all, of the ISC site would be inundated, and the Club would be forced to find a new location. That possibility prompted the Club to purchase a 24 acre tract along the Marion-Hancock County Line Road, referred to as "Bill's Cemetery", as a new location for the Club, if necessary. Even though "Highland Lake" was never created, the Club retained its ownership of the "Bill's Cemetery" property.
In 1978, the Indianapolis Water Company announced to ISC that the property was for sale. Discussions continued until 1982. On December 27, 1982 a significant event occurred in the history of ISC when the Board of Governors and the Board of Directors voted to accept the terms of an agreement for the purchase of the ISC site property. This agreement was negotiated by Jim Richter and Bill Rountree and others for purchasing the property from Compucom, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Indianapolis Water Company. The terms of the agreement stated that ISC was to transfer the "Bill's Cemetery" property to the Water Company, make a cash payment of $106,000 in August 1983, and pay the balance of $137,500 in January 1984. In exchange, ISC acquired over thirteen acres of prime waterfront land on Geist Reservoir. To complete the final transaction, it was necessary to make only one modest assessment of $250 for each Life Member, Senior Boat-Owning Member and Junior Boat-Owning Member.
Since its beginning, many changes and improvements have taken place: the clubhouse was enlarged, hoists were added, grounds were landscaped, Junior and Adult training classes were organized and provisions were made for the use of boats and camping grounds by the Boy Scouts and other youth groups. The Board of Directors has carefully scheduled improvements to our facilities when funds became available such as: improving the boat and car parking, remodeling the interior and exterior of the clubhouse, reinforcing and concreting the launching area, protecting the shoreline, and adding to the clubhouse usability with the new deck and gazebo. Upgrading our Club will continue.