*UPDATE* We’re thrilled to announce the much-anticipated Official Boathouse Row Relighting Ceremony on Thursday, March 7 from 6 – 8 PM at the Fairmount Fish Ladder, directly across the river from Boathouse Row. Bring your own chair or blanket, enjoy music and food trucks, and join City officials, leaders from Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and others for official remarks and a short light show.
Interested in booking a custom light request?
Click here to fill out the application form or scroll to the bottom of this page for FAQs.
Fairmount Park’s Boathouse Row is a central identifying icon of Philadelphia. A favorite Philadelphia “postcard” is Boathouse Row at night, with the lights that outline the boathouses reflected in the water of the Schuylkill River.
Beginning in March 2023, the iconic Boathouse Row went dark so the lighting system could receive a major glow-up. Fairmount Park Conservancy has partnered with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to replace and upgrade the existing light system at a cost of $2.1 million. The lights have experienced outages due to ongoing maintenance issues and this project is upgrading the entire system to reduce future maintenance needs and keep Boathouse Row’s lights on for years to come.
Introduced in 1979, the lighting along Boathouse Row has become an iconic feature along the Schuylkill River, where most of the boathouses date back to the 19th century. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The houses transitioned over to LED lighting in 2005 and were last refurbished in 2016. In recent years, rising maintenance costs have required the need for a full replacement. The $2.1 million project is completely replacing the failing system, which has struggled with significant connectivity challenges, regular power outages, and mounting issues. Designed by lighting specialists The Lighting Practice, this fully designed system will mount the Row’s iconic lights to 12 historic buildings along Boathouse Row. The project includes upgraded technology and durable housing boxes to protect the system from weather and wildlife damages.
Following the removal of the old light system, the individual boat houses had an opportunity to address any deferred building repairs that were previously inaccessible because of the lights. Some of the houses replaced their roofs, and a few did structural repairs which were uncovered after the removal of the previous lighting system. Many did carpentry repairs and painting on the exterior of their historic buildings. One house even completely replaced the chimney because drone footage from the construction team revealed necessary masonry stabilization. In the long term, the time spent on repairs will protect both the lighting system and the historic houses.
Funds to replace the lights and underwrite the lighting project were provided by the Joanna McNeil Trust and the City of Philadelphia.
The new lighting system has 6,400 individual LED lights, with 16 million color combinations. Lightings will be able to change from one color to another or be programmed in a way that appears to make them sparkle or “dance” along the boathouses. Lights will be able to fade from one to the next, also creating ombre effects and highlighting eclectic architectural features of the historic structures with different colors. If you are interested in learning more about requesting a special lighting, please see our FAQs below.
BOATHOUSE ROW LIGHTING FAQS
Thank you for your interest in becoming a Boathouse Row Lighting Partner! Your support will help the ongoing maintenance of the lights and ensure that they continue to shine brightly for all to enjoy. Please fill out this form to be considered for a request.
The maximum number of consecutive days is one week (7 days).
Pricing ranges from $1,000 – $6,000 per day, depending on the complexity of the display, with fees going directly into the ongoing maintenance of the Boathouse Row lights. Discounts are offered for:
- 3-4 Day Block: 10% discount
- 5-7 Day Block: 15% discount
Personal requests, nonprofits and charitable events or causes, businesses / commercial entities, and government agencies are all eligible to make a request. However, lighting requests will NOT be considered for:
- Political events or observances
- Campaigns or events contrary to the City of Philadelphia laws
- Religious figures, religious organizations or additional religious holidays
- Campaigns / events deemed to be inappropriate or offensive in nature and any causes / organizations that support discrimination, prejudice or violence
All 12 boathouses are lit as one full row. Individual house requests will not be accepted.