Boathouse Row Clubs

Fairmount Rowing Association was formed on September 17, 1877, by a small group of workingmen from the Fairmount neighborhood.  They were able to purchase a six-oared barge, which was stored in an old building at Brown and 17th Streets.  To row, the members had to carry the boat six blocks to the river.  The club was incorporated on October 23, 1880.  Fairmount found a permanent home on July 1, 1881, when they took up residence at #2 Boathouse Row, purchasing the building and equipment from Pacific Barge Club.

Fairmount joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1916 and has a long and storied history of successful competition, winning numerous national championships in sweeps and sculls at every level: junior, intermediate, senior, elite, and masters.  Among Fairmount’s more recent feats, a pair of Fairmount members was recognized as the 2007 Masters Athletes of the Year during the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Schuylkill Navy.  Red and Sara Sargent are accomplished scullers in their won right but, in keeping with the standard of 1904, Fairmount continues to dominate and elicit fear in the masters double at the national level. FRA web site »

Pennsylvania Barge Club has a proud heritage, dating back to its founding in 1861. Joining the Schuylkill Navy in 1863, Pennsylvania Barge had 359 race entries and 106 victories. Its teams represented the United States in the 1920 (four-with-cox), 1924 (four-with), 1928 (four-with and four-without), and 1932 (pair-with), Olympic Games. The 1932 Pennsylvania Barge pair, representing the United States, won the Gold Medal. Charles Kieffer of that pair was a LaSalle University graduate.

As a result of World War II, the club suffered a drastic reduction in membership and was disbanded. Successor organizations continued to maintain the building and serve as an administrative center for rowing, including serving as headquarters for the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen, which later became USRowing. In 2009, the Club was reactivated and reinstated as a member of the Schuylkill Navy and continues to be an administrative center for rowing in Philadelphia with the Schuylkill Navy, the Philadelphia Center for Adaptive Sports, the Dad Vail Regatta, the Frostbite Regatta, and LaSalle College High School being its tenants. In 2010, extensive renovations were completed to the building exterior, boat bay, first and second floors. Pa Barge Club web site »

Crescent Boat Club was organized in 1867, when the Pickwick Barge Club and Iona Barge Club merged membership.  At this time they occupied space in what is now Fairmount Rowing Association. Crescent joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1868 and incorporated in 1874.

Since the 1970’s, Crescent has experienced membership growth through novice, junior, and masters programs.  In particular, the juniors continue to flourish with many summertime victories and solid representation at the Canadian Henley.  Crescent is proud to host the Roman Catholic High School and Merion Mercy Academy rowing programs. Crescent Boat Club web site »

Bachelors Barge Club is the oldest of the 12 existing rowing clubs in the Schuylkill Navy and the oldest continuously operating rowing organization in the United States.  Created on June 27, 1853 “to establish a boating club for the cultural benefit and the enjoyment of those concerned,” the gilded age of Bachelors Barge athleticism coincided with the Roaring Twenties Legendary financier Edward T. Stotesbury, who was president of Bachelors from 1927 to 1939.

The current boathouse is the fourth structure to house The Bachelors Barge Club.  The Club’s first home was an 1853 shack on a dock opposite Fairmount Rolling Mills.  In 1854 construction began on a brick house that was shared by the Philadelphia Club.  That club disbanded after 1859 and Bachelors became the sole occupant of the boathouse.  Bachelors received permission to demolish the brownstone structure in its current location and replace it with a two-story Pompeiian brick building in 1893, becoming the first structure allowed to use brick as its primary building material.

In addition to the Bachelors rowing programs, the boathouse currently houses the rowing programs for Drexel University and Wharton School of Business Crew. The doors are painted to match their distinctive vertical red and blue striped oar design. Bachelors Barge Club web site »

There exists controversy over who the University Barge Club (UBC) founders were.  Some sources state, on April 25, 1854, ten members of the freshmen class of the University of Pennsylvania formed UBC, while other sources describe the founding fathers as alumni of the University.

University Barge Club boasts 230 members. Having originally been a men’s only club, women were admitted as full members in 1990 and a women’s locker and shower were built in 1997. Its colors are navy blue and white, recognizable on oars and flags as a three-fold vertical striping dark, light, dark.  Since 1964, UBC has been home to the scholastic rowing program of Chestnut Hill Academy and, more recently, to that of its female counterpart, the Springside Academy.

University Barge Club is the organizer and host of the annual Thomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, recently becoming a two-day event due to its popularity.  This 2.75-mile headrace had it’s beginning in 1968. University Barge Club web site »

Members of the Minnehaha Lodge of the Sons of Malta founded Malta Boat Club (then called Malta Barge Club) on February 22, 1860.  The character of the club is best described by its symbol, the royal blue Maltese Cross.  The four leaves of the cross stand for prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.  Undoubtedly, it was these traits that allowed them to complete their many rowing adventures. In 1860 the club rowed their six-oared barge, the “Minnehaha” down the Delaware to the Chesapeake Bay and up the Elk River.  The next year an outing took the men to Port Deposit and Havre de Grace on the Susquehanna.  And in 1887 club members rowed a barge from Kensington up the Delaware, through the Raritan Canal, and into New York City, where the New York Athletic Club hosted them.  Their fortitude continues to be felt today as evidenced by Malta’s consistent national and international presence.

The club initially used a boathouse on Smith’s Island in the Delaware River, just off Chestnut Street.  In 1863 the club underwent reorganization and moved to the east side of the Schuylkill just above the Spring Garden Street Dam.  In 1865 Malta joined the Schuylkill Navy and purchased the clubhouse and boat of the Excelsior Club, which stood on the site of the existing boathouse. Malta absorbed the Keystone Boat club in 1871.  Eight years after arriving on the Schuylkill, Malta in conjunction with Vesper Boat Club built semi-attached structures housing the two organizations.  Malta’s one and one-half story house became too small by 1872, so in 1881 they requested permission to expand.  It was at this time that the large Kelly Drive-facing front porch was built, a trend Bachelors later followed. Malta Boat Club web site »

Anchored by the motto “All Together,” Vesper Boat Club has one aim: to develop champions.  Producing the first Olympic men’s eight gold medal in 1900, Vesper won gold again in 1904 and 1964, the only club in the U.S. to produce three Olympic eight champions.

Founded in 1865 as the Washington Barge Club, Vesper’s commitment to winning continues.  Each year more than 30 high-caliber athletes train at the recently renovated club.

Other renowned Vesper champions are John B. Kelly, Sr. and later his son, John B. Kelly, Jr.  Kelly, Sr. won the Olympic single scull in 1920 and in 1924 with his cousin Paul Costello.  But as a laborer, Kelly was barred from entering the Diamond Sculls at the Royal Henley Regatta.  Two decades later Kelly, Jr. won that event twice, in 1947 and 1949.  Thanks to Jack Kelly, Jr.’s reign and the perpetual high caliber athletes, Vesper holds the record for the most Schuylkill Navy victories and rowing records.  At the time of his death, Kelly, Jr. was the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In 1970, after a century of accomplishments, Vesper became the first men’s club to organize a women’s team.  At the 1976 Olympics, six Vesper women rowed in the U.S. women’s eight. Vesper Boat Club web site »

Renting space at Quaker City Barge Club and joining the Schuylkill Navy in 1875, the first important series of intercollegiate races for the young Penn crew included a win at the 1879 Childs Cup and participation in the IRA in 1895.  Based on the impressive performances, the crew was invited to Henley Royal Regatta in 1901 – the first of numerous appearances.

Intercollegiate lightweight rowing in the United States began at Penn, with their organization in 1917 of a category for oarsmen weighting 150 pounds or less.  From 1919 to 1929, the Penn lightweights suffered just one loss and made their mark.  The history of women’s rowing at Penn can be traced to 1934, when the sport was offered as a class.  In 1967 women’s rowing returned as a club sport and since 1975 has enjoyed varsity status.  College Boat Club is the only all-collegiate presence on Boathouse Row.

Originally identified as University Barge Club (UBC) by the ten founding members in 1854, a desire for intercollegiate competition drove the students to separate themselves from UBC and form College Boat Club.  In 1874 College Boat Club had amassed enough resources through private subscription to build the current structure occupying #11 Boathouse Row.
Penn HM | Penn LM | Penn W

The first Penn Athletic Club (Penn AC) boat race was a gig race in 1873, and the club celebrated its first victory in the pair at the 1882 Schuylkill Navy Regatta.  After this initial victory, Penn AC hasn’t stopped winning.  Over the ensuing years the club has won more than 168 USRowing national titles, including the Barnes Trophy, the men’s point trophy for the U.S. National Championship, 11 times.  On the world stage Penn AC can count 12 world championships wins and nine Olympic medals.  In the early 1980’s, Ted Nash took over as head coach and accounted for 6 Olympic, 21 world, and 16 Pan-Am medals.  In addition six Penn AC members have been Commodores of the Schuylkill Navy: Dr. Robert C. White (1930 – 34), John B. Kelly, Sr. (1935 – 41), Jack Bratten (1950), James J. Beckett (1955 – 56), Joe Sweeney (1985 – 86), and Vince Dougherty (1988).

The predecessor of Penn AC was West Philadelphia Boat Club, founded in 1871 and located on the west bank of the river near Gray’s Ferry Avenue.  Its members were largely Irish immigrants, and enjoyed various activities including boating, swimming, and attending plays and dances.  They joined the Schuylkill Navy in 1873.

While Penn AC has a vibrant and decorated past, its mission is firmly rooted in providing future generations of oarsmen and oarswomen with the opportunity to attain their personal best. PennAC web site »

Undine Barge Club was organized on May 9, 1856, for the intended purpose of “healthful exercise” and “relaxation from business.”  Named after the spirit of babbling brooks from the Legend of Undine, the club constructed the first of several boathouses, a fifty-foot by eight-foot shed, just a few hundred yards east of the present boathouse.  The club purchased a four-oared barge, christened it the “Fawn”, and first took it to the water on June 19, 1856.  In 1858 Undine and eight other clubs founded The Schuylkill Navy.

The present boathouse was designed by Evans & Furness and built by the Pennock Brothers in 1882.  Taking advantage of the economic decline of the 1870s and the reduced budget of the Park Commission, Undine applied to “replace its single-room structure with a new boathouse,” signaling its desire to “exceed the efforts of any previous club both in design and cost, telling the commission, ‘we are prepared to expend at least $8000 in the erection of a new house which in its convenience and adaptability to its purpose and in its architectural appearance will be far in advance of any house in the Park” .

While “healthful exercise” was one of the original pursuits of Undine, racing has evolved as the primary focus and interest of Undine’s members.  A noteworthy race took place on November 18, 1872, when crews from Undine, West Philadelphia (now Penn AC) and Crescent, using boats brought from England, rowed the first eight-oared shell race ever in this country. Undine Barge Club web site »

The dual histories of the Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club (PGRC) and its 150 year old classic “Italianate” style clubhouse form a remarkable legacy of being “first” to achieve many milestones that have shaped local history and propelled women’s rowing to national prominence.

Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, PGRC’s boathouse proudly bears the distinction of being the first and oldest building on the Row.  It was constructed in 1861 by the nation’s first skating club, Philadelphia Skating Club & Humane Society.

PGRC, the first all-women’s rowing club, was founded in1938 and soon after the skating clubhouse became its first and only home. The following year they competed locally in the first documented women’s race in the U.S. however it would be over 15 years before women were welcome in other regattas.  PGRC’s Women’s Eight won the first National Women’s Rowing Championship in 1966, (and again in 1967), and later became the first women’s rowing club to represent the U.S. at the European Rowing Championships.  PGRC member (and Vesper President) Joanne Iverson was a driving force in bringing women’s rowing to the Olympic Games, and in organizing the National Women’s Rowing Association.  She managed the first U.S. Women’s Rowing Team at the Moscow world championships, as well as the first U.S. Olympic Women’s Rowing Team in Montreal.

PGRC is committed to promoting the sport of rowing at all levels for women of all ages.  In addition to hosting the Bill Braxton Memorial Regatta, the club is home to The Agnes Irwin School crew, and champion and amateur rowers alike.  PGRC will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2013, and remains the oldest active women’s club of its kind in the country.  Together the oldest boathouse and its owner are proud to be “First on the Row and First for Women.   PGRC web site »

Gillin Boat Club was established with the opening on the Robert M. Gillin, Jr. Boathouse in June of 2002. The Club joined the Schuylkill Navy on September 20, 2004, by unanimous vote of the delegates of the Schuylkill Navy's ten member clubs. The Robert M. Gillin, Jr. Boathouse is home to the Saint Joseph's University men's and women's rowing teams and the boy's team of Saint Joseph's Prep.

The 15,540 square foot state-of-the-art boathouse includes four heated boat bays with capacity for 42 eights, 14 fours/quads, and 14 small boats. The Boathouse sits on 20,381 square feet of land at the 1,000-meter mark of the famed Schuylkill River race course. The Boathouse serves as Saint Joseph's home base for all of its home regattas. The 750- square foot deck is a perfect viewing area for our families, fans, and alumni. The second floor of the boathouse includes locker rooms, showers, etc as well as a large common area for ergs, team meetings, video review and yoga.

In addition to serving as the home of Hawk rowing, the Gillin Boathouse also hosts the Fairmount Park Commission's Community Rowing Program. The first step in a long-term partnership between the University and the Fairmount Park Commission, the program is designed to provide an experience for youth in the city of Philadelpia who have not had the opportunity to experience the sport of rowing.SJU Men | SJU Women | SJ Prep

Page content exceprted from The Boathouse Row Cookbook, authored by Izzy Brown and designed by Ozan Berke.

150th Anniversary Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia, 1858-2008. (2008). Report from 150th Anniversary of the Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia.
Beischer, T., G. (2006). Controls and Competition: The Architecture of Boathouse Row. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 130(3), 299-329. Retrieved from:
Stiller, A. (2005). The Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club: An Incremental Historic Structure Report. Scholarly Commons @Penn. Retrieved from: