Philadelphia | PA | USA
Boat House Row | Philadelphia
The history of Boathouse Row begins with the construction of the Fairmount Dam and the adjacent water works. The Dam was built in 1821 to keep brackish tidal waters from entering the city's water supply through the Fairmount Water Works, which had been completed in 1815. The dam initially submerged the rapids, and later developments transformed the stretch of the Schuylkill between the dam and East Falls from a tidal river into a slack water river resembling a very long freshwater lake. The placid man-made surface was ideal for ice skating in winter and rowing in summer. In 1835, the first regatta took place between the Blue Devils and the Imps Barge clubs. The excitement from the race sparked the formation of several barge clubs, many of them short-lived.
A secondary effect of taming the Schuylkill was that the calm water provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which drove wealthy residents from their riverside mansions. The abandoned estates were bought by the City of Philadelphia. In 1844, the City purchased the Lemon Hill Estate. The leaseholder of Lemon Hill operated a beer garden and allowed rowing and barge clubs to build frame structure boathouses on the Estate's property along the Schuylkill.