The iconic lights along Boathouse Row will go out March 20 for a complete overhaul that is expected to last about eight months. The $2.1 million project will replace the entire lighting system with 6,400 individual LED lights capable of 16 million color combinations. The new system will be able to be programmed to make the lights appear to dance along the homes that sit along the Schuylkill River.
The lights switched to LEDs in 2005, and haven’t been refurbished since 2016. In that time, the lighting system and control boxes have been damaged by weather and animals.
“A significant amount of the damage has been from animals and squirrels,” said Allison Schapker of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, which works with the city to manage park projects. “This will protect the individual lights on the houses from the weather and also from animals that like to mess with our light fixtures on Boathouse Row.”
After the lights are removed, the boat houses will undergo repairs that had been delayed in areas that were inaccessible due to the lights.
The project is being funded by the Joanna McNeil Trust and the City of Philadelphia.
“Fairmount Park Conservancy is experienced in managing complex projects, and we are pleased to be entrusted with such a unique and important plan to help the City of Philadelphia shine brighter,” said Maura McCarthy, Fairmount Park Conservancy’s CEO, in a statement.
While most of the boathouses date back to the 1800s, the iconic lights outlining the homes were first installed in 1979. The row was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
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