The Boathouse Row located along the east bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia goes beyond its functional role as a depository for a number of racing shells.
Situated in the middle of the Schuylkill River and Kelly Drive, the Boathouse Row boasts of beautiful Victorian abodes that each possesses their own distinct historical background. These expertly crafted dwellings can be seen from Philadelphia?s Schuylkill Expressway and houses the constituents of the Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia which is the longest existing non-professional amateur sports governing association in the United States. Due to its significance in the metropolis? history, it was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
The twelve houses found in Boathouse Row plays a central part in Fairmount Park?s rowing events. Out of these 12 abodes, ten serve as the headquarters of well-known rowing clubs which include the teams from the five biggest universities in Philly. These are the University of Pennsylvania, La Salle, Villanova, St. Joseph and Temple. The other house functions as Fairmont Park?s recreation complex and the remaining house is owned by an exclusive social club called The Sedgely Club. Some of these houses also back numerous high school rowing teams within the locality by offering them storage space for their race boats.
Majority of the rowing teams housed in Boathouse Row were formed during the mid-1800s and the abodes were constructed from 1870s to the 1900s. These teams include the longest continuously active rowing club in the United States called the Bachelors Barge Club. This particular team came about when a group of single volunteer firemen assigned near the Schuylkill River formed the club. The Malta Boat Club #9 which is also housed here was built almost at the same time as the Bachelors Barge Club.
Aside from playing a central role in the bustling rowing culture of the metropolis, the Victorian houses in Boathouse Row are also structural gems designed by some of the most popular architects during that time. An example of which is the Crescent Boathouse #5 which was conceptualized by acclaimed architect Charles Balderston. G.H. Hewitt on the other hand made the blueprints for both the Malta and the Vesper Boathouses which feature a semi-attached Victorian Gothic aesthetic. A stone?s throw away is the Undine Barge Club which is also dubbed as Castle Ringstetten. It is acclaimed as the most remarkable structure among the boathouses with its magnificent leaded glass and daring make.
Boating enthusiasts should see the Boathouse Row at broad daylight to witness the active rowing scene here but it also pays to visit the historic place at night when the Victorian abodes are illuminated with thousands of small lights. The lights change in color depending on the current season. This feature was added in 1979 when the Boathouse Row faced threats of demolition. The lights revived the interest in the Victorian houses and the majority of these dwellings have been renovated.