The Boathouse Past and Future

The Sedgeley Club Boathouse was erected in 1902.  Located at 15 Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive, it is the youngest of all the boathouses.  In 1897 several women from Philadelphia petitioned city government to allow them to build a place for women to enjoy rowing, bicycling and canoeing along the river in the “countryside” bordering town since the other boathouses were reserved for men.  The women were granted the right to build their house surrounding the lighthouse, and had to maintain the lighthouse for the city from that point, on.  Sedgeley Club grew in popularity throughout the early 1900’s.  Aside from sporting activities, Sedgeley provided lunches, teas and dinners to members.  In her book, “The Light on Turtle Rock 1897-1985” Mrs. D. Weston Darby wrote that during World War One the club almost closed due to lack of coal and wood to keep the building warm.  Luckily, enough driftwood was plucked from the river to last through the cold months and Sedgeley Club remained open.  Electricity was installed on December 10th 1921, and in 1932 the women of Sedgeley created a Relief Fund to support needy families in response to the Great Depression.  In 1945, Sedgeley hosted the Stage Door Canteen (Philadelphia’s branch of the famous theatrical organization) as they entertained disabled WWII servicemen.  Lights first outlined the houses of Boathouse Row in 1980 and continue today.  Their nighttime outline has become an iconic symbol of Philadelphia.  The houses of Boathouse Row were added to the National Register of Historic Places and deemed National Historic Landmarks in 1987.

After WW II, women joined the workforce in large numbers and times changed for Sedgeley Club.  Sporting activities at Sedgeley diminished and by the late 60’s it became mainly a social gathering place for women. Although membership has declined over the past 50 years, Sedgeley Club members remain dedicated to their mission of preserving the building for everyone to enjoy.  Without their ongoing care and contributions, Sedgeley would not exist today.

In fact, 100% of Sedgeley Club’s members continue to preserve the boathouse with their yearly donations and by volunteering.  Unfortunately their contributions will not be enough to sustain the building and lighthouse into the future.  In 2012 Sedgeley Club’s Board of Governors, with pro-bono help from a Philadelphia law firm, created a non-profit corporation dedicated to raising funds for the preservation of the building and the lighthouse.  Friends of Historic Sedgeley was born, and is raising funds to sustain the building.  Standing firm through two World Wars, a depression, landing on the moon, and over a century of American history, the Sedgeley Club building and lighthouse deserve to be maintained and enjoyed by the public for another hundred years.  For a complete list of preservation projects and to learn how you can get involved, please visit the Support section