The Rowing Blazers Boathouses
Guest post by Jack Carlson
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“Rowing Blazers,” which I published last year, is a book with a clear focus: the club jackets worn by oarsmen and women around the world. But the book was never just about blazers. I really use the blazer as a device to talk about many different things: the eccentric traditions and diverse social attitudes of the clubs themselves; the colorful, rakish biographies of various characters in the rowing world; racing lore and legend; and storied histories of regattas and rivalries.
The book takes readers inside a privileged world. Many of the photo shoots took us inside some incredible spaces, such as historic boathouses and prestigious club rooms (that’s me above at the Penn AC Rowing Club on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia). The adventure of creating the book provided enough interior design inspiration to fill an entire book on its own, and I wish more of the glorious spaces in which we were lucky enough to shoot made it into “Rowing Blazers.” But for now, I’ll pick out a few of my five favorite interiors that did make it in.
• ARV Westfalen (Münster, Germany)
Unlike many of the other boathouses in the book, ARV Westfalen is a fully functioning, self-described fraternity house. Simple black and white photographs of old boys mix with 19th-century cartoons and 20th-century paintings on the wall. Beat-up oriental rugs and stained glass windows complete the space. Like many German fraternities, fencing is also a pastime at the club, so don’t knock over the sabers.
• Columbia University’s Gould-Remmer Boathouse (New York, New York)
Columbia’s original boathouse was built in 1895 on the banks of the Hudson at 116th Street, before being replaced some 30 years later by what is now known as Gould-Remmer, on the banks of the Harlem River at Baker’s Field. In 2001, a new Columbia boathouse, “The Class of 1929 Boathouse,” was completed next to Gould-Remmer, leaving this historic gem tragically underused. Its principal room is a beautiful wood-paneled space. In the best British tradition, the names of every 1st boat crew are inscribed on the panels. In the background of this photograph, you can see the name Henry Remmer (2 man in the 1940 crew), who is the Remmer in Gould-Remmer.
• Newell Varsity Lounge (Boston, Massachusetts)
Newell Boathouse is the headquarters for the men’s rowing teams at Harvard. The varsity lounge features black and white mounted photographs of each Harvard varsity heavyweight crew. The calligraphy on the mounts is not quite as elaborate as that on traditional British crew photographs, but it is very consistent. The rest of the room is an organic confection of crew scrapbooks ancient and modern, trophies (including lavish Tiffany-produced cups for prestigious regattas of old and rather dubious plastic trophies for more recent “invitational” regattas in China), yoga mats, and University of Washington betting shirts.
• Goldie Boathouse (Cambridge, England)
Virtually everything inside Goldie Boathouse is painted Cambridge Blue (more green-blue or Duck’s Egg Blue, really; Oxford supporters call it “Duck s**t blue”), including the walls. These walls are inset with panels bearing crew lists for every Cambridge varsity crew since the first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in 1829. The panels list the names of the crew members, their colleges, the year and location of the race, and the race result, which, in the starkest possible terms, is either “Won” or “Lost.”
• “One-One,” Oriel College (Oxford, England)
Room 1, Staircase 1 is the Oriel College Boat Club Captain’s room. It is perhaps the most carefully curated and best maintained rowing room I came across during my travels researching the book. Blades commemorating Oriel’s many championships hang on the wall, and the tradition is kept up today. Oriel won last year (again), and the commemorative blade was commissioned and installed without delay. The skeleton of the club’s beloved pet tortoise from the 1930s (a stylized picture of whom now adorns the 1st VIII ties and waistcoats) hangs from the ceiling among pieces of victorious boats, while the blades on the wall are interspersed with mounted crew pictures, photographs of previous captains, and carved wooden fittings from the defunct Oriel College Barge.
“Rowing Blazers” by Jack Carlson is published by Vendome Press and Thames & Hudson. All images from “Rowing Blazers” by Jack Carlson. Copyright Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Author photo by Jason Varney.