Canoe house condemned

January 29, 2008 3:51:07 PM PST
City inspectors have shut town a building used by several Philadelphia rowing clubs.The city owns the Canoe Club, a building where about 100 boats are kept. Rowers gather and change in the building before heading out on the Schuylkill River. Now city building inspectors say the building has structural problems and have fenced it off.

The boathouse, which rests in the shadow of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, is home to Temple University, Father Judge, North Catholic, and La Salle high schools' rowing teams.

Based on a complaint, the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections looked closely at the 83-year-old building and found a floor and wall in danger of collapse, a ceiling heading toward complete collapse, and declared the structure unsafe.

Temple's coach says an informal lease agreement makes the schools responsible for minor interior repairs like plastering and plumbing and the city responsible for the exterior, including the roof, which Temple contends has fed the other problems.

"We would actually do a lot of repairs and it was very frustrating because you would plaster one part and move over and do something else and this would start to drip again," Gavin White, Temple University's rowing coach, said.

The city contends it gives non-profit organizations like the crew clubs informal $1 per year leases in exchange for the organizations' agreement to take care of the property.

At this point, with the building condemned, the crews have until February 15th to remove their boats, which add up to around 45.

With practice slated to shift back onto the Schuylkill shortly, the members of the effected teams, 150 or so in number, aren't sure what they'll do.

"The timing of it is really bad because we'd probably be on the water next week, but it's difficult without boats. As you can imagine we'd be a swim team, not a rowing team, if we went out without boats," Coach White said.

St. Joe's Prep, whose boathouse is across the parking lot, is one of a number of teams from across the region who has offered to store the boats.

Team representatives hope that a meeting with the Fairmount Park Commission set for Thursday will result in an alternate place to store equipment.