Boathouse Plan Greeted With Praise, Questions

Melinda Tuhus Photo Plans for a state-of-the-art boathouse on Long Wharf are moving forward, including six bays to hold shells for rowing. Jennifer Brackett (pictured) wanted to know, “How rowable will the water be?”

Brackett was one of three dozen residents who turned up at a public information meeting Thursday night at 200 Orange St. to hear city officials and project developers explain the plans for the Canal Dock Boat House to be built on site of the old Canal Dock, since demolished, adjacent to Long Wharf pier.

More public meetings will follow. The city hopes to begin construction of the 55,000-square foot platform on pilings in the water by June 2011 and construction of the boathouse itself a year later, and hold a grand opening in January 2013.

LANGANFunding for the $30 million project is included in the state Department of Transportation plan to widen I-95 over the Q Bridge. Click here for a previous story.

Dave Vogel (pictured), retired coach of the Yale rowing team and now an adviser on the project, traced the beginning of all intercollegiate sports competitions in America to New Haven harbor.

“Back in 1843,” he said, “New Haven harbor was the birthplace of the first collegiate team in America—that was the Yale crew. That team went on to compete in the first intercollegiate athletic contest in America, which was the Harvard-Yale race.” The new boathouse is replacing Yale’s historic Adee boat house located further east in the harbor; it was in the path of the I-95 expansion and was dismantled and put in storage. Pieces of it will be put on display in the new facility.

Vogel was equally enthusiastic about the potential for the new boathouse, which will be open to the public: “Who’s going to row here? This is a perfect opportunity for us to fill it with a lot of kids—a lot of New Haven kids [and] a lot of people who just want to experience the joy of being on the water.”

Brackett, a member of the New Haven Rowing Club, is one of those who take joy from being on the water. She was concerned about how appropriate the venue will be, especially for young rowers. “Youth programs, which usually have to be after school, and the Long Wharf—at least when I drive by on I-95—doesn’t look very hospitable for rowing,” she said. “Rowing in these shells…people not familiar with rowing don’t know how tippy they can be, so in smaller boats it can be quite difficult to row in open water, with winds.”

Both the Yale rowing team and the New Haven club have their boathouses on the Housatonic River, in calmer water than is often found in Long Island Sound.

Vogel replied, “In this area, it’s going to be dependent on wind because it’s pretty open. Back up the Q RIver, it’s quite a bit more sheltered and you’re not going to have the same roughness problems that you’d have it you decided to go out of the harbor toward Lighthouse Point or something like that. We looked at this when Yale was building the new boathouse that is now out in Derby on the Housatonic River. The incentive for Yale would have been that this is so much closer to campus. But Yale’s program is primarily an afternoon rowing program, when the winds are stronger. Most programs that are on the shoreline communities in Connecticut are morning programs, where the winds are much, much lighter. It’s not ideal for every possible use of rowing, but it’s a very rowable site.”

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posted by: robn on September 3, 2010  12:31pm

So if the project is so important, why does it look like an airport sales kiosk? bad, bad bad.

Throw out this terrible cartoon and hire somebody who can actually design…like Grey Organschi who designed Yale’s boathouse on the Housy River and some other fine projects in New Haven.

posted by: anon on September 4, 2010  11:09pm

This story dead ends in the weeds over rowing shells. Meanwhile, we have no idea if there are going to be canoes, little sail boats, kayaks as well.

Re rowing shells on the river or in the harbor:

The river is swift moving and choppy, the harbor is open and windy.

I don’t get why the Yale fellow is being shy about saying it, it is not a great river for crew shells, any time of the day, and the harbor is no better. Thats why all the rowing programs are on the Housatonic, a great river for it.

for kids it would be dangerous, and incredibly challenging.

So, what other boating will happen> sailing? Kayaks? Who will use it, is it a public boathouse for everyone or not? Can people rent berths, slips, etc.

BTW, that glass box over the front looks awful, sorry. Wish I could be more positive all around, but I hate the architecture.

I am positive about the potential for a public boathouse on the harbor.

posted by: Anon, again on September 4, 2010  11:26pm

You know what Robn? I just posted, left the story, and came back because the architecture of this building has horrified me so much.

I agree with you that the Yale boat house in Derby is an awesome building, designed to fit into that exact spot it is built on.

Even the New Haven Rowing Club’s building is built with love by its own members and is comfortable.

This, my god, it is a horror. Is this DOT idea? Is that why?

Wht’s that swoopy TWA thing over that frightening glass box? You’re right. Airport kiosk.

I think it is OK to incorporate the old Yale boat house, but not like a collector’s limited edition from the Franklin Mint under a bell jar. Brack!

Or should I say, brackish!

This is an architecture emergency. We need to bring someone in fast before it gets built like that. With the highway right near it, the least they could do was something calming. Maybe they figure if the boathouse doesn’t work out, they can convert it to a car dealership or a super McDonalds drive through. That’s what it looks like

McCatalogue, off the shelf Late American Horror Show!

posted by: Thomas on September 6, 2010  3:18pm

When exactly was this Boathouse last used? Is anyone still alive remember when the harbor area was used for races? Was the building an important architectural building or just another brick building that had to be “saved?” Perhaps if it would be better if they had just taken control of the old Hardware Store on Front and Grand on a calmer area of the Q-river.

posted by: architecturalbuff on September 7, 2010  10:46am

To robn—the Yale boathouse on Route 34 in Derby IS nice! Note though that it was designed by the firm Turner Brooks.  Grey Organschi is fantastic, but that one is not theirs.  Langan Engineering, which is doing this has a pretty large portfolio on their website.  http://www.langan.com/web/

posted by: architect, on September 7, 2010  5:03pm

There are a lot of good firms in New Haven, most of them are associated with Yale. I agree Turner Brooks would of been a good choice. More importantly, why wasn’t there a public competition for a project like this? It seems to me that an architectural competition would do a few things, 1. get the public involved in the process, 2. get the best project possible, 3. encourage small business - show there are opportunities for eager young architecture offices.

posted by: kevin on September 15, 2010  12:58pm

robn and anon

The rendering in the article does a really bad job of presenting the building. The other renderings shown at the meeting are more sympathetic.

Anon, the boathouse will be used for canoes and kayaks as well as sculls.