The old University boat house, which will be vacated soon, has a long history in Harvard rowing. It was built in 1869, about twenty years after rowing had become a recognized College sport at Harvard.
Until 1870 the boat houses used were mere sheds, of private ownership. The sheds were unsafe and unsubstantial, since the ice was apt to carry them away in winter, making them dangerous to keep boats in. It was decided that some improvement was necessary and in 1869 the plans for the present boat house were drawn up. The plans called for $7000, about $4000 of which was raised by subscriptions, baseball games, and amateur theatricals. It was completed in 1869. After the house was finished the University Boat Club, which built it, found it impossible to raise the remainder of the $7000 and in a few years it became necessary to transfer the ownership to the University.
The house has been changed very little since in was first built. There used to be a balcony on the riverside, which once became overloaded with spectators during an early race, and fell down upon the heads of the people below. Many people were seriously hurt, and the balcony has never been rebuilt. Some years after the main boat house was built, the large boat room and looker room on the west end were built. From 1870 to 1990 all the University crews have rowed from this house.