PlanPhilly

Look Up! Architectural exercises on Boathouse Row

    • Looking west along the waterfront of Boathouse Row.
      Looking west along the waterfront of Boathouse Row.
    • Frank Furness designed the Undine Barge Club building, Boathouse #13, in 1882.
      Frank Furness designed the Undine Barge Club building, Boathouse #13, in 1882.
    • Furness emblazoned the Undine club coat of arms on the corner of the building.
      Furness emblazoned the Undine club coat of arms on the corner of the building.
    • James C. Sidney designed the building for the Philadelphia Skating Club in 1860.
      James C. Sidney designed the building for the Philadelphia Skating Club in 1860.
    • The Hewitt brothers worked on the Malta Boat Club building, Boathouse #9, around 1878..
      The Hewitt brothers worked on the Malta Boat Club building, Boathouse #9, around 1878..
    • Edward Hazlehurst and Samuel Huckel Jr. designed Boathouse #6 for the Bachelors Barge Club in 1893.
      Edward Hazlehurst and Samuel Huckel Jr. designed Boathouse #6 for the Bachelors Barge Club in 1893.
    • Charles Balderston worked on the Crescent Boat Club. Boathouse #5, in 1890.
      Charles Balderston worked on the Crescent Boat Club. Boathouse #5, in 1890.
    • The beacon at the western end of the row, Boathouse #15, was built by Arthur H. Brockie for the Sedgeley Club in 1902.
      The beacon at the western end of the row, Boathouse #15, was built by Arthur H. Brockie for the Sedgeley Club in 1902.
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Look Up” is a PlanPhilly feature that encourages appreciation of our architectural and historical environment. Each week, the photo essay will focus on a different Philadelphia area neighborhood and its distinctive building styles and details, all of which make up the physical fabric of the city and region.

Those who have resolved in 2011 to pursue a life of aerobic health also have the opportunity to appreciate a showcase of 19th and early 20th century architecture. The Kelly Drive, on the waterfront west of the Museum of Art, has long been a gathering spot for those seeking recreation and fitness, and a site for architects to stretch their muscles beyond institutional or residential projects.

The creation of the Fairmount Water Works and dam in the early 19th century calmed a portion of the Schuylkill and turned it into a wide skating rink in the winter and a perfect course for the new sport of rowing in warm weather. The city allowed rowing organizations to erect a few clubhouses along the river of the young Fairmount Park in the 1850s, but they were teetering, wood-frame structures that were condemned by 1859.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, more substantial buildings of stone, brick, shingle and stucco were allowed to go up – after review by the new Fairmount Park Commission – in a variety of styles that fit into the park setting.

James C. Sidney designed the oldest standing clubhouse, the Philadelphia Skating Club, in 1860. The Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club obtained title to the elegant stone building, # 14, in 1965. Philadelphia’s master architect, Frank Furness, built the handsome boathouse next to the skating club for the Undine Barge Club in 1882.

Other contributors to the row were George W. and William D. Hewitt, whose work included the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel and the Bourse Building; and ecclesiastical architects Edward Hazlehurst and Samuel Huckel Jr., who designed the Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Boathouse Row is a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

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Contact the writer at



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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

ajaffe@planphilly.com



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