History of Canandaigua's Boathouses

The Canandaigua City Pier was built in 1848, and the first boathouses were built there during the 1850's. The simple wooden boathouses contained mostly small skiffs while larger ones housed sculling shells, sailing and steam yachts. While the boathouses were used almost exclusively to store boats, some of the companies shipping produce by rail from the pier stored grapes and other farm products in boathouses after removing them from steamboats. Photographs from the early 1900's show one story wooden structures with gable roofs on a north-south axis. By 1888, over eighty boathouses were along the pier and in the "steam" basin.

In 1903, the pier was enlarged to accommodate train and trolley tracks to service the steamboats transporting farm produce and passengers along the lake. At that time the village built the "finger piers" to accommodate the boathouses, which were either moved across the ice or demolished and rebuilt in their present location. This was done in the winter of 1903-1904.

In 1904 boathouses at the mouth of the "feeder creek" exiting the lake next to what is now Seager's Marina were demolished to make room for a swimming school to be built by Mary Clark Thompson. By 1904 there was room for twenty eight boathouses on the two finger piers and thirty seven on the main pier. By 1905 the third finger pier was built and new boathouses were being constructed there.

At least one boathouse on the shore west of the pier contained a restaurant. Demolished in 1908, this boathouse was considered an eyesore among the many rustic and simple wooden structures which lined the store, the pier and the finger piers.

A Boathouse Owners' Association was soon formed to help protect and enforce the strict rules and regulations prohibiting people from living in the boathouses or using them as cottages. With their rustic nature, they are an attraction for artists, tourists and photographers and remain a unique and picturesque reminder of Canandaigua's heritage. They reflect an earlier, simpler life style and the area residents' continuing use and love of the lake.

The boathouses were finally added to the Canandaigua Historic District to preserve their heritage in 1990!