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Harvard’s Century-Old Boathouses to Undergo Renovations

Harvard will commence renovations on its historic Weld Boathouse this year.
Harvard will commence renovations on its historic Weld Boathouse this year. By Julian J. Giordano
By Carrie Hsu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard will commence renovations on its historic Weld and Newell Boathouses this year in what is planned to be the most significant update to the buildings since their construction more than a century ago.

The University announced its plans for the project in the February release of its 2021 Town Gown report, which details the University’s sustainability, diversity, and infrastructure goals. The report revealed the renewal project would include extensive interior and exterior improvements, as well as new sustainability features.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Timothy P. “Tim” Troville said the renovations to the Weld Boathouse, which houses the women’s teams, are expected to begin around June 1 and conclude by January. Renovations on Newell, home to the men’s crew teams, will start in September and are expected to finish by November 2023.

Troville said the renovating team is planning to build energy-efficient air conditioning systems that use natural wind currents from the Charles River and install solar panels during upgrades to the buildings’ roofs. The renovations will also include an upgrade to LED lighting, among other changes.

“Planned work, which is expected to commence later this year, includes interior renovations for new training facilities, locker rooms and bathrooms, significant interior and exterior accessibility improvements, the replacement of the terracotta roof tiles, masonry cleaning and repair, storm drainage improvements, and replacement of the existing ramps and docks which have reached the end of their useful life,” Harvard spokesperson Amy Kamosa wrote in an email.

Plans for the renovations started in 2013 and went through several revisions following feedback from the Athletics department, alumni, and coaches, Troville said. The project was brought to the Harvard Corporation for approval after a fundraising initiative collected the necessary funds to complete the updates.

Liz O’Leary, head coach of the women’s heavyweight crew team, attributed the success of the fundraising efforts to philanthropy from alumni, parents, and friends of Harvard and Radcliffe rowing.

“It’s been recognized that both the boathouses, Newell and Weld, need love and attention,” she said.

Harvard's Newell Boathouse will undergo renovations this year.
Harvard's Newell Boathouse will undergo renovations this year. By Joey Huang

Troville added that the pandemic caused “minor delays” but ultimately allowed the timeframe of the construction projects to “tighten up” from two calendar years to 18 months.

He admitted the rowing teams will be “slightly inconvenienced” by the projects. During construction, the teams will have to rely on temporary docks and available parts of the boathouses.

“There’ll be some minor changes,” Troville said. “But I think it’ll be short in duration.”

He reassured that the boathouses will “maintain the charm and character” of their current appearance with the addition of new amenities, such as hot water in their showers and functional plumbing.

“The University’s renewal of the Weld and Newell Boathouses will address much needed repair and restoration of these historic and iconic buildings,” Kamosa wrote. “Both projects are being carefully planned to ensure that Harvard’s rowing programs have uninterrupted water access during construction, and renewed facilities will enable equitable usage.”

O’Leary said her team would “find another home” while the boathouses undergo renovations. She was optimistic that the team would adapt to any disruptions caused by the construction.

“You turn it into a positive, and you think about how you’re going on a little adventure here — we’re going to go row out of a different boathouse,” O’Leary said. “Things will be different, but that’s okay.”

Troville said the Athletics department is eager to renovate the iconic, century-old boathouses.

“I think when you think of springtime, you think of the crew boats rowing on the Charles,” he said. “And so we’re very excited to be able to renovate these buildings and make sure that they last another 75 to 100 years.”


—Staff writer Carrie Hsu can be reached at carrie.hsu@thecrimson.com.

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