For immediate release: Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Press ContactsFairmount Park Conservancy- Cari Feiler Bender, 610-416-1216, cari@reliefcomm.comPhiladelphia Parks & Recreation- Maita Soukup,

PHILADELPHIA – Beginning March 20, 2023, the iconic Boathouse Row will go dark for an expected eight months while the lighting system receives a major glow-up. Fairmount Park Conservancy is partnering 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 new project will completely redo and upgrade 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 moved 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 will completely replace the failing system, which struggles 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 15 historic buildings along Boathouse Row. The project will include  upgraded technology and durable housing boxes to protect the system from weather and wildlife damages.

The houses will be dark for what is expected to be eight months, with intended relighting to come at the end of 2023. Following the removal of the existing light system, the boat houses will have an opportunity to address any deferred building repairs that were previously inaccessible because of the lights. In the long term, the time spent on repairs will protect both the lighting system and the houses.Funds to replace the lights and underwrite the lighting project were provided by the Joanna McNeil Trust and the City of Philadelphia. “Boathouse Row is a Philadelphia icon. We are grateful to the Schuylkill Navy and Fairmount Park Conservancy for working tirelessly to maintain this historic stretch of parkland, which holds so much significance to the rowing community locally and nationally. And a tremendous thank you to the Joanna McNeil Trust for its support and commitment to restoring this special landscape,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “We are so grateful to Joanna McNeil Lewis for her steadfast support of this project and her unwavering commitment to ensuring its successful completion,” said Maura McCarthy, PhD., Chief Executive Officer of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “To have such a dedicated champion for this Philadelphia landmark is an extraordinary gift for our city. Fairmount Park Conservancy is experienced in managing complex projects, and we are pleased to be entrusted with such a unique and important plan to help the City of Philadelphia shine brighter.”“The light reflected on the Schuylkill River from Boathouse Row is there as we celebrate big moments as a City,” said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “We are incredibly grateful to the project funders, and our partners at the Schuylkill Navy and Fairmount Park Conservancy, for working tirelessly to preserve and modernize the historic lighting traditions that make Boathouse Row such a cherished public space for all Philadelphians.”The lighting system, once complete, will have 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 “dance” along the boathouses. If you are interested in learning more about customized lights in the future, email parksandrecreation@phila.govFor Frequently Asked Questions about Boathouse Row’s lights, visit here: more historic photos of Boathouse Row, download high-resolution images here:


Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) advances the prosperity of the city and the progress of its people through stewardship of nearly 10,200 acres of public land and waterways, and management of 500 recreation buildings, 166 miles of trail, and 250 playgrounds. PPR offers safe, enjoyable recreation, environmental, and cultural programs and events throughout Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system. PPR promotes the well-being and growth of the city’s residents by connecting them to the natural world, to each other and to fun, physical and social opportunities. In 2017, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, set about implementing the park system’s first strategic plan: Our Path to 2020 and Beyond. As a result, PPR is undertaking a period of historic change, setting the department on a course to become a modern, equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system. Visit us at, and follow @philaparkandrec on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Fairmount Park Conservancy brings parks to life. We work with the City of Philadelphia and its communities to steward our parks and nurture our shared environment, cultural resources, and public health. We lead capital projects and historic preservation efforts, foster neighborhood park stewardship, attract and leverage investments, and develop innovative programs throughout the 10,200 acres that include Fairmount Park, six other watershed parks and more than 130 neighborhood parks and gardens around the city. For more information, please visit, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @myphillypark.


Photo by Albert Yee for Fairmount Park Conservancy

For more historic photos of Boathouse Row, download high-resolution images here: