March 21, 2023   

Philly’s Iconic Boathouse Row to Get Lighting Makeover

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TLP and Color Kinetics will soon cause light to "dance" along the boathouses


PHILADELPHIA – Beginning yesterday, Philadelphia’s iconic Boathouse Row is going dark for an expected eight months while the lighting system receives a major upgrade. 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.

Boathouse Row has become an iconic feature along the Schuylkill River and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The houses transitioned 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 leading architectural lighting design firm, The Lighting Practice (TLP), the fully designed system will mount the Row’s iconic lights to 15 historic buildings along Boathouse Row. The project specifications call for upgraded technology by dynamic lighting maker, Color Kinetics, which is a brand of global lighting leader, Signify.


The Lighting Practice seeks opportunities to positively impact our communities through lighting design and this project is a great example. The existing lighting has established Boathouse Row as an iconic Philadelphia landmark. The new LED lighting system upgrades will honor and elevate the original design while bringing joy to Philadelphians for years to come".

  – Jonathan Hoyle, Principal at The Lighting Practice.


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. The system will be able to change from one color to another or be programmed in a way that appears to make lights “dance” along the boathouses.