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Newly Renovated Weld Boathouse Ready for Spotlight at Head of the Charles

Weld Boathouse currently serves both the Harvard men's and women's rowing teams while the Newell Boathouse is under construction.
Weld Boathouse currently serves both the Harvard men's and women's rowing teams while the Newell Boathouse is under construction. By Julian J. Giordano
By Caroline G. Gage, Crimson Staff Writer

After more than a year of construction, this fall marks Harvard-Radcliffe’s first season in the newly-renovated Weld Boathouse. Originally constructed in 1906 by George Walker Weld to encourage “university-wide-rowing” — for varsity, club, and intramurals — the boathouse is also a famous Cambridge landmark and favored by tourists, artists, and photographers. Weld is home to the Harvard-Radcliffe women’s crew teams, intramural rowing, and recreational programs.

Beyond its role as a training facility, Weld’s position as the midpoint of the Head of the Charles Regatta makes it a central part of the largest two-day rowing event in the world.

“I think that’s a really special thing for our athletes, is the fact that not only are they racing on their home course, but they row right past our dock,” explained Heavyweight Women’s Crew Head Coach Claire Ochal. “So having as many people out there supporting and cheering on Harvard-Radcliffe is such a big thing for these athletes.”

The world-renowned regatta draws tens of thousands of spectators to the banks of the Charles each year. For Harvard-Radcliffe rowers, the Head of the Charles is the only race of the year which gives them the chance to pass by their own boathouse. The race, which is unique for its rolling start time, marks a different format of racing for the Crimson.

“[The] Head of the Charles is a different style of racing than we see in the spring,” senior co-captain Sarah Averill explained. “It’s not side-by-side, so it can be more internal in that way, and you can rely a lot more on your coxswain, so that’s why it’s even more exciting when you get to pass Weld Boathouse and get that extra boost of speed when you hear all your fans cheering for you.”

The transformation of the Charles landmark was completed in April. Principally funded by donations, Weld’s renovation included a revamp of its locker rooms, offices, training spaces, and improvements in accessibility and sustainability. The project renewed the boathouse’s stucco, replaced its well-known terracotta roof, as well as the windows and doors. It also improved the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems.

“I’ll say one of the most exciting parts about the renovation is our locker room,” senior co-captain Heidi Jacobson remarked. “We got completely renovated lockers and a whole new space in there, and it’s just been really good for our team culture and just being able to spend time in there with each other before and after practice.”

The renovation marked the most construction on the boathouse since it was built. As other historic Harvard buildings strive to maintain tradition and personality, architecture firms Peterson Architects and Bruner/Cott worked alongside Consigli Construction to preserve the boathouse’s history and character.

“I don’t think the atmosphere in Weld, at its root, has changed very much, it’s just [that] the renovation has elevated it,” Averill added.

Since the completion of Weld’s renovation, construction has begun on Newell Boathouse, which houses the Crimson’s men’s rowing teams. Newell Boathouse, constructed in 1900 as a gift from the Harvard Club of New York, mirrors Weld on the other side of the river, closer to Harvard’s athletic facilities. Amidst the Newell renovations, all four varsity teams currently share Weld’s new facilities.

“I think it’s kind of fun just to have that camaraderie, and have all the crews come together amongst all four teams for Harvard-Radcliffe, just supporting one another and getting excited for what we can do right now and in the future of the season,” Ochal said.

The Head of the Charles, which draws a number of alumni back to Cambridge to race and cheer, will give former rowers an opportunity to visit the refurbished boathouse.

“I would just say I’m excited for all the Radcliffe alums to get to come see the boathouse, because I think it’s really beautiful and I think they’re going to be very excited to see it,” Jacobson added.

-Staff writer Caroline G. Gage can be reached at caroline.gage@thecrimson.com

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Head of the Charles 2023