|The Gilder Boathouse
October 21st, 2000 marked the dedication of Yale's fourth new boathouse in 157 years of collegiate rowing. The Gilder Boathouse is named to honor former Olympic rower Virginia Gilder '79 and her father Richard Gilder '54, who gave $4 million towards the $7.5 million project. Designed by School of Architecture professor Turner Brooks '65 ARC '70, the building provides a dramatic site for watching races at the finish line of the Housatonic River race course. For a peek at the facility, Turner himself provides these descriptions:
"The main building entrance
brings athletes, coaches and visitors through the heraldic sliding oar "door" (a
clustered frieze of aluminum oars) onto a porch that opens up dramatically to a framed
view of the river. Here a generously expanding stair spills down to connect with the docks
and the water below. The staircase and deck function as a multipurpose space for team
meetings and other group activities. The athletes proceed out along the porch overlooking
the river to enter the locker rooms. The coaches have their own office and lobby area. A
lounge is located south of the river for viewing the approach of racing boats. This space,
anchored by a large fireplace, is also designed to house trophies and other memorabilia.
The building will stretch from the current upstream edge of the Cooke Boathouse to the
In 1852 the first Yale-Harvard race launched competition between colleges in athletics. The first race, organized as a promotional event by a local lodge, was raced in six-man boats without coxswains over a three-mile course on Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire. Not until 1896 did the race become the annual four-mile event in New London. In 1870 Yale broke with tradition by integrating the legs into rowing. Yale oarsmen wearing greased leather trousers slid up and back on smooth wooden plates mounted where the tracks of the slide are today.
Today, the oarsmen finish exams and travel east along the Connecticut shoreline to Gales Ferry for a training camp and experience that connects them to all of the men who have trained for the long distance races against Harvard. The athletes focus on training. It is not a place of distraction. At the Ferry there are no televisions. A newspaper over breakfast is an oarsman's connection to the outside world. Between rows, oarsmen play cards, write letters, read or practice for the prestige event of leisure, the annual croquet tournament. Meals, prepared by Yale dining hall cooks and managed by Brian Frantz, are eaten together in the large dining hall. A Yale staff volunteers to take care of the team. In this setting championship crews are made.