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.
The lights that trim the buildings of Boathouse Row were first installed in 1979 and then replaced in 2005. In 2012, various failures began occurring to the lights, power supplies, and controller – leaving dark gaps. Since parts from the original system were no longer available due to changes in technology, a full replacement of the components was necessary. Thanks to a generous donation from The Joanna McNeil Trust, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, in partnership with Fairmount Park Conservancy upgraded the lighting installation at the iconic Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River in the summer of 2016. The new lighting system is capable of being programmed with specific colors for occasional special programming.
A large-scale community celebration was held in September to celebrate the new lights and included representatives from the Schuylkill Navy, the individual rowing clubs and programs, along with city leadership. To view the press release from July, 2016 about the new lights click here.
The lights on the buildings of Boathouse Row were originally installed as part of Philadelphia’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. The light system was developed by PECO and until 2005 with the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s involvement, the system of lights of Boathouse Row had not been changed since the original installation. There as a chronic problem of lights being out and the annual cost of replacing burned out bulbs was upwards of $50,000. Lighting technology changed significantly since the mid 1970’s with brighter and more energy efficient systems.
Other lighting improvements were made across the City of Philadelphia on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and at 30th Street Station – projects that capitalized on new theatrical lighting design and exterior lighting technologies. The Conservancy and Fairmount Park saw an opportunity and need to adopt the newest technology in exterior lighting and use a computerized light control board that would allow for a more visually exciting and energy efficient Boathouse Row. The relighting of Boathouse Row involved several components with the overall goal of conserving energy, improved maintenance systems, and increased options for various visual and color configurations. All of the lamps on Boathouse Row were replaced with a computerized, centrally located system to manage the logistics, aesthetics and colors of Boathouse Row.
The system encompassed more than 12,000 individually controllable nodes of Color Kinetics® iColor® Flex SL – a flexible, LED-based “string light.” Each node was driven by microchips, and allowed for intricate, colorful lighting sequences in addition to simple white light that closely matched the previous incandescent system. The project was completed in the fall of 2005.