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Revisiting the Detroit Boat Club as its renovations continue

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Photos by Michelle & Chris Gerard

A couple years ago, we showed you some photos inside the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle. The concrete structure was in pretty rough shape, but still very much in use by hundreds of rowers. Curbed recently stopped back to see what’s been going on since and what’s next for this historic structure.

The building needs millions in renovations, so progress continues slowly. But we were able to capture a few new renovations, including a shiny blue band shell that was so rotted before that you could practically see through it.

Gene Chamberlain, who showed us around the Boat House, said that the band shell was built in the mid-30s and there wasn’t a single square angle to it. They took it apart, refinished, and put it back together like a puzzle.

Future plans for the Boat Club
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Recent outside renovations also include the docks to the west (22 slips). Soon, the Olympic-sized pool (where Johnny Weismuller once swam) could be filled again.

Recent improvements inside include a finished conference room on the second floor that’s available for events and meetings, two bathroom renovations, a new weight room on the bottom floor, oars that form art through a hallway, and a room full of donated woodworking tools.

Also to note - much of the wood paneling in the main lobby has been restored, and some of the wood came from the recently renovated Forest Arms Apartments.

Here are a few of the interior details captured by our photographers.

What’s next for the boat club? First is work on the exterior stucco, which gives the building its crumbling look. The building is made of concrete; it’s fine and the structure (built in 1902) was recently assessed by divers. Also on the to-do list: repairing the ceiling in the dining room, giving the kitchen a deep cleaning, and finishing the ballroom.

Here’s a glimpse of what we saw inside the Detroit Boat Club as it forges ahead room by room.

Over 300 athletes use the Detroit Boat Club at various levels (youth, adult, beginner, advanced). The Friends of Detroit Rowing, in activating its strategic vision, have initiated Project Pull Together. The project’s goal is to renovate the historic boathouse and draw on the building and surrounding site as a tool for a sustainable future, hereby increasing positive Metropolitan Detroit experiences. There’s a Monte Carlo Night fundraiser scheduled for March 11, which will include cocktails and casino games. Funds raised will benefit the Boat Club. More info can be found here and those interested can contact Ryan Abney.