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Gilder Boathouse

280 Roosevelt Drive, Derby, CT 06418


Derby Day at Gilder Boathouse
Apr 15, 2017

Gilder Boathouse is a 22,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility for Yale crew. It is double the size of Yale's previous facility and stretches south to the finish line of Yale's 2,000-meter race course.

The building incorporates design features specific to the needs of the program and the requirements of the site on the Housatonic River and offers an extraordinary view of the races and finish line.

Selected in a design competition in February 1998, the New Haven firm of Turner Brooks Architects designed building and provides this description:

"The main building entrance brings athletes, coaches and visitors through the heraldic sliding oar 'door' (a clustered frieze of aluminum oars) onto a porch that opens up dramatically to a framed view of the river. Here a generously expanding stair spills down to connect with the docks and the water below. The staircase and deck function as a multipurpose space for team meetings and other group activities. The athletes proceed out along the porch overlooking the river to enter the locker rooms. The coaches have their own office and lobby area. A lounge is located south of the river for viewing the approach of racing boats. This space, anchored by a large fireplace, houses trophies and other memorabilia.

Yale rowing has a long history in Derby ever since Frank Gates of Derby undertook to induce Yale to bring its rowing activities to Derby in 1852, first in lower Derby and later on Lake Housatonic above the dam starting in 1918. Mr. Gates managed to convince Yale's British head coach Guy Nickalls of the suitability of the Housatonic for his crews, and in 1918 the first intercollegiate race was held on the lake with Yale and Harvard competing. At the same time, the Bob Cooke boathouse was dedicated in honor of one of Yale's famous rowing coaches. Down through the years, the boat house and Yale crew racing was a favorite spectator sport in the area. At one time Derby Day was an attraction that drew thousands to the banks of the Housatonic to view the races. A special observation train ran along the course of the race on the Shelton side of the river. Crews from around the country made the Hotel Clark in downtown Derby their headquarters while staying in Derby.

Though the Derby Day races are no longer held, rowing on the Housatonic has been undergoing a revival not only with the construction of the Gilder Boathouse, but also with the New Haven Rowing Club farther upstream. The Rowing Club hosts a the Head of the Housatonic Regatta in October each year that is growing in popularity. The boat house is also one of the stops on the Heritage Valley Driving tour.

Yale has also created a community rowing program that provides a special educational program that is a tremendous benefit and experience to children in Derby and the surrounding area.