Boathouse Row

Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing

Dotty Brown
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia 2018 Preservation Education Award
Book Cover

HC: $35.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1282-9
Publication: Oct 16

288 pages
10 x 8
63 color photos, 3 line drawings, 110 halftones

A magisterial history of Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row

Read an excerpt from Chapter 6 (pdf).


The history of Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row is both wide and deep. Dotty Brown, an avid rower and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, immersed herself in boathouse archives to provide a comprehensive history of rowing in Philadelphia. She takes readers behind the scenes to recount the era when rowing was the spectator sport of its time—and the subject of Thomas Eakins' early artwork—through the heyday of the famed Kelly dynasty, and the fight for women to get the right to row. (Yes, it really was a fight, and it took generations to win.)

With more than 160 photographs, a third of them in full color, Boathouse Row chronicles the “waves of change” as various groups of different races, classes, and genders fought for access to water and the sport. Chapters also discuss the architectural one-upmanship that defined Boathouse Row after Frank Furness designed the stunning and eclectic Undine Barge Club, and the regattas that continue to take place today on the Schuylkill River, including the forgotten forces that propelled high school rowing.

Beautifully written and illustrated, Boathouse Row will be a keepsake for rowers and spectators alike.

This publication was supported by a generous donation from H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest.

Table of Contents


1. Before Boathouse Row: First There Was a Dam
2. Thomas Eakins: In the Heyday of Rowing, a Young Artist Paints His Friends
3. Frank Furness: Architectural One-upmanship Remakes the Row
4. John B. Kelly: An Irish Bricklayer Builds a Legend and Legacy
5. Tom Curran and Joe Burk: The Collegiate Calling of Two American Champions
6. Ernestine Bayer: Women and Their Fight for the Right to Row
7. The “Vesper Eight”: A Motley Crew Vies for an Olympic Berth
8. Edward T. Stotesbury: The Forgotten Forces of High School Rowing Epilogue
The Schuylkill Navy and the Clubs of Boathouse Row


About the Author(s)

Dotty Brown is a former reporter and editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. During her newspaper career, she edited numerous prize-winning projects, including one that won a Pulitzer Prize. She is also a member of the Vesper Boat Club. Visit her online at