Boathouse Row is one of the most identifiable spots in Philadelphia. When you take the Schuylkill Expressway, you will drive past Boathouse Row right before you get into Center City. It is right by the Art Museum and the historical Fairmount Water Works.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous this weekend, so we made a little time to stop by Boathouse Row for a little walk to take it all in. There is a walking path (the Schuylkill River Trail) that is right beside the boathouses (the address is 1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130.) It is a very long trail, and they even have really cute push bikes that you can rent located in between the Water Works and the Boathouses if you are interested in that as well.
Boathouse Row is very significant in the history of Philadelphia, and started with the construction of the Fairmount Dam and Water Works. Originally, this dam was created in 1821 to withhold brackish tidal waters from going into the city’s water supply. Eventually, this formation between the dam and East Falls created a tidal river into slack water which appeared like a very long freshwater lake. Back in the 1800s, the surface was ideal for ice skating in the winter months, and rowing in the summer. The first historical note of rowing took place back in 1835 between the Imps Barge clubs and the Blue Devils.
There was a lot of enthusiasm from the community in response to this race, and it sparked the formation of different barge clubs. During the 1860s and (mostly 1870s) the boathouses that we see today were created. Currently, Boathouse Row also is the center hub for many rowing regattas, which include the Independence Day Regatta, the Head of the Schuylkill, the Navy Day Regatta, Stotesbury Cup Regatta, and the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. The boathouses are viewed as the center of the rowing community across the United States.
As we hiked around the area, we noticed an elevated path, that seemed to rise above the historic Water Works, and gave an amazing view of the area. I later found out that this was the Cliffside path area, and it was originally constructed in the 1820s. The areas on the cliff that you will want to check out are the Mercury Pavilion, Rustic Pavilion, Distribution Arch, and Reservoir all linked to the Engine House. The day we went, we could see from this vantage point that there was probably a wedding at the Water Works because we noticed trucks filled with flowers milling in and about!
Boathouse Row truly connects the past history of the city to the present, and gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the context of the land, while enjoying its beauty at the same time. Our families are from Philadelphia, so on a personal level, we really have a connection to it as well, but I believe everyone will really enjoy this landmark when traveling to the city! It has always been this hub of great activities, get togethers, sports, entertainment, and hopefully will be enjoyed for many years to come!
Let me know in the comments if you have also visited Boathouse Row or the Water Works and what you thought of the area as well! Also, do you have a personal favorite spot in Philly? Let me know! I hope that you have a wonderful day and remember to click that subscribe button!
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-For Additional Reading
If you are traveling to the Pennsylvania region, and are interested in learning about its history, a really amazing resource is the book “Pennsylvania A History of the Commonwealth” by which is edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak. It is so informative, and reviews the history of our state, in addition to the geography, architecture, archaeology, art history, and even stories of folklore and folklife that are specific to this area.
I personally recommend this book if you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania, or even if you are just interested in learning about the state in general. If you would like to check it out, click on the link below!
If you would like to check out the full list of travel books that I recommend make sure that you check out this comprehensive guide!