At the cottage, this group met daily, in informal camaraderie, adding to their numbers as the summer progressed, and formulating Club policies and essential House Rules as the need arose. It was a loosely knit organization that first year. No officers were elected but Wynn R. Sewell of Pittsburgh, was the organizer and leader of the group, and he was enthusiastically "aided and abetted" by Frank W. Jones, Charles F. Wright and Dr. A.L. Mason of Boston, Rudolph and William S. Ellis, William Struthers and Charlton Yarnall of Philadelphia, Duncan Hunter and Charles J. Steedman of Providence, Edward A. Jackson of Baltimore and Edwin A. Johnson of New York. It was during this summer, too, that the name of the Club was chosen to conform to the name of like clubs already established at Newport and Bar Harbor. Plans were laid for a more formal club body to be duly organized the following year.
In 1898, therefore, at the Club's first meeting of the summer, officers were elected, and a constitution and By Laws were duly drawn up and John R. Lee of Boston was chosen Chairman of the Board; Humphrey T. Nichols was made Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, and to the first Board of Governors was elected William S. Ellis, Dr. C.W. Fox of Philadelphia, Duncan Hunter, Frank W. Jones, Francis A. Peters of Boston, Wynn R. Sewell, William Struthers and Charlton Yarnall. Membership was limited to fifty, and the annual fee was twenty dollars. Subscribing members could be introduced by a member upon the payment of $2.50 per week. A Guest Book was ordered and secured promptly, which is proved by the fact that the first entry in it is dated July 28, 1898. From the House Rules printed in the Club Book of 1898 is quoted:
"Ladies shall be admitted to the room set apart for their use only when accompanied by members (or subscribing members of an eight week's period); but under no circumstances shall they be admitted to any other part of the Club House except on the occasion of a general entertainment given by the Club. The steward's services are not extended to the Ladies' Room," however, afternoon tea might be served on the ladies piazza. A year later, the foot-in-the-door provision that ladies must be accompanied by members or subscribing members disappeared from the House Rules, perhaps the first indication of "Women's Lib" locally.
The first club house was one of the oldest buildings in the area, a part of the Goodwin estate, and was rented, and subsequently purchased from a descendant of that old York family. The piazza of the cottage faced the road and the sea. From it a door opened directly upon the family kitchen, which served as the principal clubroom. To quote the Club's first secretary, to whom we are indebted for most of our information as to its early days:
"A few tables and chairs were installed; the kitchen closet shelves sufficed for our primitive locker room containing the bottles of individual members marked with their names; the kitchen sink and its soapstone counters served as our 'bar', and held our glasses and bowls of cracked ice, and a table at its side held crackers and a huge native cheese, together with mint from our own garden bed and 'tansy' from the roadside. In the earliest days the members waited on themselves, washing and drying their individual glasses. A small adjoining room served as a writing room, and at the left of the door hung the bulletin board, above a shelf holding the Club Guest Book. Informal Club meetings were often held on the piazza, the members comfortably seated in the straw chairs and 'rockers' discussing the needs of the moment and the topics of the day; but in rainy weather they adjourned to the kitchen. To the left of the piazza was the main entrance to the cottage, with its tiny hallway, its typical bent staircase leading to the two small bedrooms above and a door to the right opening directly into the 'parlor.' This parlor was used, in that summer of 1897, as a room in which to entertain wives, daughters and lady guests of members with impromptu welsh rarebits and the like; and the following year it was dignified with 'The Ladies Room.'"
THE READING ROOM was incorporated under the revised statutes of the State of Maine on August 22, 1901, with the following officers: Francis A. Peters, President; Albert M. Bragdon of York, Secretary and Treasurer; Board of Governors, Francis A. Peters, C.J. Steedman, Duncan Hunter, John R. Lee, Thomas Nelson Page of Washington, Charlton Yarnall, Douglass Stewart of Pittsburgh, Humphrey T. Nichols, and E.H. Siter of Philadelphia. At this time, the membership was limited to seventy-five and the annual fee was fifteen dollars.
From its inception the Club was a success. Twelve years after it was founded the original quarters had become too small to accommodate its members and subscribers. Land was acquired, plans were drawn, a new building was erected, and the present Club House on York Street was opened May 29, 1910. The first entries in the Guest Book were made by John C. Rice and Finley Peter Dunne. Except on the occasion of a general entertainment ladies were admitted only to the Ladies' Parlor the room which adjoins the gentlemen's writing room, but on August 19, 1911, the alcove - meaning what is now the gentlemen's writing room - was opened to ladies daily between the hours of twelve and two because of the crowded condition of the Ladies Parlor.
That summer plans were made for improvements on the lower floor in order that it might be open to ladies, and in the minutes of a meeting of the Board of Governors held September 23 the statement appears that "while several of the Governors expressed the feeling that if it was a new question as to whether or not ladies should be admitted to the privileges of the Club House, they would be strongly inclined against it, as they always had been, never the less, it was the general sentiment of the meeting that the privileges having already been so extended, this question was not now before the meeting for consideration." The improvements were therefore made not long afterwards.
On September 1, 1919, a new stock corporation was organized under the General Laws of the State of Maine, with no limitations as to the number of members, male or female.
The records of the annual meeting of the members and of the meetings of the Board of Governors, previous to 1909 are missing: therefore, the accuracy of the lists of officers which follow cannot be guaranteed so far as earlier years are concerned.