Look Up! Architectural exercises on Boathouse Row

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.

“Look Up!” John Notman’s brownstone temples

“Look Up!” 19th Century luxe on Locust St.

“Look Up!: 20th Century evolution in East Falls

“Look Up!” Rural retreats in Northeast Philly

“Look Up!” Modernist lines on Haverford Ave.

“Look Up!” Chestnut Hill’s modernist gems

Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

“Look Up!” The Art Deco Palace of Mt. Airy
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Look Up!” The French Village in Mt. Airy
“Look Up” and check out the nouveau mansions of North Broad

“Look Up” and check out elegant Southwark
“Look Up” and check out Henry Disston’s company town
“Look Up: and check out Spruce Hill
“Look Up” and check out Green Street
“Look Up” and check out West Laurel Hill
“Look Up” and check out Parkside
“Look Up” and check out Awbury Arboretum
“Look Up” and check out Nicetown
“Look Up” and check out Overbrook Farms
“Look Up” and check out Girard Estate
“Look Up” and check out Rittenhouse/Fitler Square

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