Washington Canoe Club, 3700 Water Street Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC
Significance: The Washington Canoe Club, built in 1904 in the Shingle style, sits along the Potomac River, between it and the tow path of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. It is one of only two remaining historic boathouses in Washington and an important component of the waterfront landscape. Its presence also speaks to the rise of athletic clubs and an interest in outdoor recreation that occurred during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The outdoor movement gained momentum as industrialization provided Americans with more leisure time, while at the same time there was a growing awareness of the value of physical activity. Likewise, the recreational use of canoes and kayaks in particular became increasingly popular in America and in Europe during this period. According to its charter, The Washington Canoe Club was established for "mutual improvement, the promotion of physical culture, and the art of canoeing." The club is also important for its role in pioneering the development of flat-water racing as an Olympic sport and helping to set competition standards. And in fact, having won the national competition, Washington Canoe Club members represented the United States in the first Olympic canoeing competition, held in Paris in 1924. The club thus can claim numerous Olympic athletes among its past members.
As with most country and athletic clubs of the turn of the century, the Washington Canoe Club sponsored other activities in addition to canoeing. Summer activities included boating excursions, regattas, lantern parades, and swimming matches. The ground floor of the boat house includes a kitchen and a "grill room" to host dining events. A painted frieze in the grill room depicts the club's original members engaging in paddling, beer drinking, and other leisurely pursuits. During the winter months, the "ballroom" on the main floor was host to ladies nights, dances, receptions, minstrel shows, and theater parties. While the club was originally intended for men only, membership was later open to women. By 1930, an addition was made to accommodate more boat storage with an open roof deck above; behind that was constructed a ladies locker room. The deck area was later enclosed to create a workshop for boat repair.
From an architectural standpoint, the Washington Canoe Club is among the best examples of the Shingle Style in the city. It is two-and-a-half stories in height with a closed balcony across the principle riverfront elevation, flanking octagonal towers, and a central pavilion. The pavilion culminates in a broken pediment that includes a half-round fanlight and is bisected by a flagpole. To the center of the balcony is the Washington Canoe Club insignia. A hipped roof covers the building, to the center of which sits a louvered lantern. On the interior, the ground level includes, in addition to the grill room and kitchen, a canoe storage area. On the principal level, in addition to the ballroom, are a stair hall, "board room," and restrooms, with flanking men and women's locker rooms.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N1960
Survey number: HABS DC-876
Building/structure dates: 1905 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1909 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: ca. 1915 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: ca. 1970 Subsequent Work
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 90002151