For the past year, 860 scholastic rowers at West Side Rowing Club have watched history unfold. The Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse, designed in 1905 and completed in 2007, opened to the public Sept. 28.
Wright designed his boathouse for the University of Wisconsin, but when their rowing program declined his offer, he shelved his plans. After more than 100 years, the boathouse has found a home in Buffalo, a city with rowable waterways, an existing top-flight rowing club, and an affinity for Wright's work.
West Side Rowing Club, once difficult to find along the Black Rock Channel and Niagara River, is now in the limelight as the boathouse draws visitors to its beautiful waterfront location. "It's really going to broaden access to the sport of rowing so that it's available to all people in Western New York," said Ted Marks, president and founding director of the project.
It's a synergistic relationship. A first-rate rowing program is spotlit by an architecturally significant boathouse, and a fabulous boathouse/museum is brought to life by the daily presence of athletes.
Crew, once a private school, males-only endeavor, has expanded through the years to include women and public schools, and is a year-round sport. City Honors pioneered the region's first public school rowing program in 1996, while Buffalo Public Schools assembled a team this autumn. West Side Rowing Club has its own club team, and is home base for the scholastic rowing programs of St. Joe's Collegiate, Buffalo Seminary, Holy Angels, Gow, Nichols, Canisius and Nardin.
"The additional space allows West Side Rowing Club to expand their programs by about 20 percent," said Marks.
The boathouse is a living, breathing testament to a sport that is thriving in Western New York. When visitors stop by, they get a glimpse of what crew is about, can view vintage rowing shells, and may observe a design by a renowned architect in service of the sport. Tourists also have the delight of seeing actual rowers at work, as they push the limits of fitness, handle boats, and row by in perfect synchronicity while coaches bark orders from their launches. "The building is the most memorable and fantastic, in my eyes, when you actually see boats coming in and out of it," said Marks. "That's pretty special."
More information may be found at www.wrightsboathouse.org and www.wsrc.org.
Madeline Burns is a sophomore at City Honors.
>NEXT BOOK CLUB
The NeXt Book Club is reading "The Wright 3" by Blue Balliett (Scholastic, $6.99), a mystery about Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Chicago. Readers 18 and younger are welcome to send a short (150 to 200 word) review of "The Wright 3" by Nov. 15 for a chance at prizes including books, NeXt T-shirts and Frank Lloyd Wright themed T-shirts and puzzles donated by the Darwin Martin House. Mail reviews to NeXt, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo NY 14240 or e-mail email@example.com. Include name, age, school, home mailing address and home phone number. Some reviews will be published in NeXt. Find more information at www.darwinmartinhouse.org, www.wrightplus.org and www.pbs.org/flw. For Darwin Martin House tours, call 856-3858. Admission is $10 for students.