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Chicago Rowing History

Chicago was founded in this location because of the Chicago River. Because of this, rowing has been a part of our City's history for longer than almost any other sport in existence today. Here is a brief summary of our history. All information below was compiled my Mark Carroll of the Rowing Group using various sources. Contact if you have any questions or concerns.

This is a work in progress. Missing years does not mean there is no information, just that it's coming together bit by bit.

1858 October-
"A contest took place in Chicago Illinois between the Shakespeare Rowing Club of Toronto and the Metropolitan Rowing Club of Chicago at Chicago over a five mile course for a purse of one thousand dollars. Both boats were four oared and the Toronto boat walked away from the Chicago boat from the start leaving the latter an uncaleulable distance behind. The time made by the Toronto boat was forty two minutes."
Section taken from "A History of Rowing in America" By Robert B. Johnson, William Blaikie

The regattas of the Mississippi and the National Rowing Association were held at Pullman's race course in Lake Calumet in Chicago as early as 1883. Race site boasted a 4000 seat grandstand and an ornately decorated boathouse.
link to article


September -
The Chicago Navy was organized, which comprised all city and suburban clubs.  The twelve clubs that first formed the Chicago Navy were Farragut, Delaware, Pullman, Tippy-canoe, Evanston, Iroquois, Ogden, Catlin, Union, Hyde Park, Quintard, and Douglas.
link to article


October -
The Boat Clubs of Chicago is first released, written by Mrs. Edith Sessions Tupper and published in Outing Magazine. Twelve clubs were listed in the article. This is the first known public mention hinting of a boathouse in Lincoln Park. Plans for the thirty thousand dollar boathouse were on hold until the course of Lake Shore Drive had been settled.
link to article

J. F. Korf and W. Weinand of the Delaware Club

July 21-15 -
The Lake Superior Regatta was held for amateur and professional oarsmen competing for medals, cups and cash.  Results include 1st place in the amateur level junior double sculls, which was won by Catlin Boat Club of Chicago, rowed by William Corbett (bow) and James Henderson (stroke), with a time of 10 minutes, 10 and a half seconds.

Another top result is the 1st place finish in the senior single scull (Mississippi Valley Rowing Association regatta, a mile and a half) which was rowed by J. F. Corbet of the Iroquois Boat Club of Chicago, with a time of 11 minutes, 31 seconds over O. M. Nelson of St. Paul Boat Club, who lost by a length.
link to article


March 23 -
Charles Catlin of Chicago was president of the Northwestern Amateur Rowing Association, which held its spring meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Link to news article

July 17 -
Chicago rower at the 23rd Annual Regatta of the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen in Saratoga, NY. Senior single sculls, fastest heat of the day, W. S. McDowell of Chicago's Delaware Boat Club. Time, 9.5 and one half minutes. McDowell to race J. A. Runiohr of Toronto Rowing Organization to row following day.
Link to news article

1907 "Rowers, Chicago Rowing Club, sitting in racing shell on a body of water." Informal group portrait of Chicago Rowing Club rowers L. J. Carroll, R. Lockerbie, W. Weingartner, and E. L. Wittenborn sitting in a racing shell and holding oars in a body of water in Chicago, Illinois. A person is visible riding a bicycle on the shore in the background.
1910 Lincoln Park Boat Club was established
1955 Photo of Weber High School Rowing Team on the Lincoln Park Lagoon
(photo obtained through listing)
1956 Photo of Weber High School Rowing Team on the Lincoln Park Lagoon
(photo obtained through listing)

Photo of finish line in 2x race at 1959 Chicago Pan Am Games on the Cal-Sag Channel
(photo obtained through listing)

History of Olympic Rowing in Cuba - Celia M. Hernández and Humberto García García
Page 101, link to LA84 Foundation version of text.

"Without doubt, one important triumph in this early stage of rowing was the participation of Cuba in the Chicago Pan-American Games in 1959. There in the Windy City, a four-oared shell with coxswain from the Club Náutico de Cienfuegos represented Cuba."

1985 Chicago Bears win Super Bowl XX
Loyola Academy founds rowing as a club sport. At the time, LA is Illinois' only high school rowing program.
1997 Loyola Academy wins gold at Midwest Championships in the varsity boys 8+  
2010 November 18 -
Lincoln Park Boat Club celebrates its 100th Anniversary at a party held at the Columbia Yacht Club.

September 19 -
Mayor Rahm Emanuel Announces Plans to Make the Chicago River the City's Next Recreational Frontier, commits to investing $16 million dollars to build four separate boathouses on the Chicago River.
link to press release

September 19 -
The Chicago River Race was announced to be held for the inaugural year in 2012, supported by the City of Chicago, to be run in the Fall season to support at-risk youth rowing.
link to race press release





For more information, contact Mark Carroll with the Rowing Group. – 773.354.6311

Rowing Group - 2014