On a cold Sunday morning, Bridgeport and the 11th ward welcomed two firsts: the first snow of the season, and the shiny new Eleanor Boathouse. The metal clad boathouse stands out as a new public icon in the ever-changing South Side neighborhood.
Located in a brand new public park, Park 571 (2860 South Eleanor Street), the boathouse is intended to create new connections between the Chicago Parks District, Chicago Public Schools students and the community. All three are partners in the project, which will introduce new programs with local schools, as well as a new summer boating programs and camps for kids available through the Parks District, a first for Chicago.
The boathouse completes the city’s vision of four boathouses along the Chicago River’s north and south branches, and concludes phase one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Building on Burnham” plan.
The concept of the structure is that it imitates the motions of rowers and water during rowing, creating a striking form that is familiar yet new. The sharp, opposing slanted roofs allow multiple opportunities for sunlight to cut into the interior, as well as for varying ceiling heights. The boathouse as a whole is divided into two buildings connected with a small garden that opens up to the water:
The smaller, 5,800-square-foot, more transparent building is clad in large windows with expansive views of the river. It is the home of a new community center, which will offer various programs year round as well as have 50 state of the art rowing machines. A smaller gathering room and a small office can also be found.
The larger, 13,000 square foot, more enclosed building is geared for storage, with a large boat storage room offering more than enough space for over 60 boats, as well as heated repair bays, and lockers. The storage space, which takes up most of the building, also offers large garage-style doors to the outside and side parking lot.
Studio Gang designed the boathouse, and Walsh Construction was the general contractor. It had to dig out the top 20 feet of soil from this location because it was contaminated with coal tar.
The city hopes the $8.8 million boathouse delivers a new opportunity to this area by offering a sport not normally thought of on the South Side. As Mayor Emanuel said during his opening speech, he hopes that this boathouse will also unlock scholarships and many other educational opportunities for the children of the area, while also creating the city’s second shoreline.
In addition to the amenities listed above, the new park and boathouse also offer:
- A floating boat launch dock
- Large mixed-use stairs for access to the shoreline as well as spectator sitting during races
- Fishing rod holders
- Garden themed to the branches of the Chicago River between the buildings
- Outdoor play area and workout equipment
- Expansive green spaces
- Bike racks