Bachelors Barge Club

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | C.1853

Photo Credit: Jaime Alvarez

Lining the Schuylkill River of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a bundle of historic boathouses, known as Boathouse Row. Rowing in Philadelphia emerged from the 1793 yellow fever outbreak. The river had originally been too turbulent for rowers until a water sanitation system and dam was erected in 1812 to improve the city’s water quality. The new structures essentially calmed the waters and created the perfect environment for rowers.

Bachelors Barge Club occupies boathouse #6 on the Row and it is the oldest continuously operating boathouse in the United States. The Bachelors Barge Club was established in 1853 by members of the Phoenix Engine Company, which was a volunteer fire-fighting organization. Initially, membership was limited solely to bachelors, however the Club opened its doors to married men shortly after its founding.

The Club occupied several boathouses in succession until 1860 when it built its own stone building on the river. In 1884 the club expanded to include a social house located up-river. Famed local architects Edward Hazelhurst and Samuel Huckel, Jr. partnered to design the building known as “the Bachelor’s Button”.

After about 30 years rowing out of their custom-built boathouse, the city allowed the Club to replace their old building for a new one in 1893. Once again Hazelhurst and Huckel designed the Mediterranean-style boathouse in grand fashion. Today the building remains largely unaltered.

Recently, the club underwent renovations and joined other boathouses in the “Light Boathouse Row” initiative. LED lighting has been fitted to each of the boathouses on the Row, and at night they sparkle in unison in a light show. Boathouse Row was nominated as a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Membership at the club has risen considerably since its beginnings and a majority of Bachelors Barge Club’s 150 members are women. The Club is deeply committed to fostering a pride and success around the sport of rowing and they wish to continue efforts to diversify the sport.

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