Historic Yale boathouse to be rebuilt by 2015

Six years after the historic home of early 20th century Yale rowers was razed to the ground, a new boathouse will soon rise over the waters of the New Haven Harbor.

City and state officials joined a group of construction workers Monday morning to break ground on a two-story, hurricane-tolerant community boathouse that will lie at the site of the former Canal Dock shipping pier, on the western edge of the city’s harbor. Entirely funded by the state and federal government, the brand-new $37-million facility will be a replica of the historic George Adee Memorial Boathouse, which was demolished in 2007 to allow for the expansion of Interstate 95 along the harbor.

With new boating programs and historical exhibitions, the construction of the Boathouse at Canal Dock will help to revitalize the waterfront, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

“For over five decades our city has been cut off from one of its greatest natural resources, the New Haven Harbor,” DeStefano said. “The construction of the Boathouse at Canal Dock takes steps to remedy that.”

Towering over the shores of the Quinnipiac River, the historic George Adee Memorial Boathouse was erected for the Yale rowing crew in 1911. For 12 years, collegiate rowers raced out of the Tudor-style, brick-walled Geroge Adee boathouse, pushing their blades against the New Haven Harbor waters.

After the crew team relocated to its current Derby location in 1923, the boathouse was sold and converted into office space for decades. After much debate, it was eventually razed in 2007 to accommodate the construction of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, a partially completed bridge that carries the I-95 over the mouth of the Quinnipiac River.

As a mitigation for the loss of a historic structure, the Connecticut Department of Transportation agreed to pay up to $30 million to build a replica of the George Adee boathouse at the Canal Dock location, which functioned as a shipping pier until the 1940s. The remaining $7 million necessary to complete the project will come from federal funds.

The construction of the new boathouse, DeStefano said, follows more than 15 years of discussions to attempt to reconnect New Haven residents with the currently underused waterfront, a narrow patch of beachfront just a 20-minute walk from Yale’s central campus.

“Good things sometime take a long time,” DeStefano said, adding that of the many improvements he has seen in his 20 years of service to the city, “this one holds special significance.”

Echoing the mayor’s words, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro celebrated the groundbreaking of the new community boathouse — a project she said pays homage to the history of the New Haven Harbor and of the original George Adee boathouse.

“I am so proud to see this project taking shape,” DeLauro said. “It will strengthen our city and bond us together for decades to come.”

The project — which has been designed by Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects in partnership with the city and the state’s Department of Transportation — will be developed in two phases.

Construction has begun for a 48,000-square-feet platform that will be completed in approximately one year, said Sam Gardner ARC ’82, one of the architects working on the project. The full project, he said, will then be brought to completion by the end of 2015, when a 30,000-square-feet, two-story building will be erected atop the platform.

Gardner added that the building has been designed to reflect the original George Adhee boathouse, with original terracotta decorations, wooden plaques and other fragments of the historic boathouse incorporated into the exterior and the interior of the new facility.

When fully completed, the upper story of the building will house meeting rooms, offices and locker rooms. The lower floor — which will be built above the flood elevation to protect the building from floods and hurricanes — will be used to store boats, kayaks and canoes ready to sprint out into the Quinnipiac River.

City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti said that the city is partnering with local and out-of-state agencies to support an array of programs ranging from youth rowing lessons to marine education classes sponsored by the University of New Haven.

“[The new boathouse] will provide a central facility in New Haven for water recreation,” Mariotti said.

Yale University founded the first collegiate crew in the United States in 1843.

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