History Page



In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright was asked by a University of Wisconsin oarsman and Wright-family friend, Cudworth Bye, to design a boathouse for a Yahara River site. This boathouse would serve as an early spring rowing venue as the Yahara River did not freeze as did Lake Mendota, the regular rowing venue for the University.

Wright obliged quickly with a design in the form we see today. The boathouse was never built and the drawing was filed away with so many other unbuilt works.

Several years later, Wright resurrected the Yahara boathouse drawing and made it part of his famous Wasmuth portfolio, a catalog of the works he felt were his finest, showing them throughout Europe on a grand tour to promote his design ideas and talent.

The design lay dormant and out of sight until it was rediscovered at a Wright symposium by John Courtin, then executive director of the Darwin Martin House restoration. A group was assembled to gain the rights to the boathouse design.

The project received significant financial support from Tom Fontana, the Buffalo Rotary Club, many individuals both locally and nationally, Erie County, New York, and the federal government.

Work began in 2000 to assemble the land and complete the design and permit process.

The Boathouse was opened in 2007, dedicated the Charlie and Marie Fontana Boathouse in honor of the long time rower and coach at the neighboring West Side Rowing Club, and his wife.




Wedding photo of Charles and Marie Fontana

Tom Fontana (L) and John Courtin (R) at the dedication ceremonies of the Fontana Boathouse in 2007