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Other Name(s) Olentangy Canoe Club
Lake House
Type Activity Space
Park Section The Grove
Built 1880
Opened 1891
Closed 1930
Fires 1934
Architect Joseph Gettner

The Boathouse was one of the first structures built at Olentangy Park[1] and offered Naphtha launches and canoes[2][3][4] for parkgoers to boat a three-mile course on the Olentangy River. It was located along the Olentangy River, south of the theater and the ravine bridge. Naphtha launches were early motor boats and were 20 feet long.[5] By 1904, they were electrically powered. Rowboats were "safe and speedy type" Clinker-built rowboats.[6] The manager was listed as Edward C. Turner in a June 1897 Dispatch classified ad seeking "young ladies" to wait at ice cream tables and lunch counters at the refreshments area of the boathouse. A bowling alley was part of the boathouse until they were removed in 1914.

The boathouse was the oldest building at the park and was the original Olentangy Villa restaurant, built in 1880 by Joseph Gettner[7] and operated by Robert M. Turner.[8]

The boathouse boats were swept away in a flood on July 7, 1904. They were swept over the dam, landing near residences. Only 19 of the 22 boats were recovered by the next day. [9]

On May 21, 1905, Amelia Wylie, a boathouse ticket seller, lost control of her boat and became caught in the current of the Olentangy River. She lost hold of the boat and ended up in the turbulent pool at the foot of the five-foot waterfall. Several people tried to save her before going over the edge but had to instead run ahead to where her body reappeared, and the water was shallow enough to rescue her. They were able to resuscitate her, and she fully recovered.[10]

The first annual regatta by the Olentangy Canoe Club took place on August 28, 1909, at the Boathouse, where there were 22 canoes at the time.[11][12] The event included:

  • 150-yard race, free-for-all, two men in a canoe
  • 75-yard dash, 17-foot canoes and over, one man in a canoe, no ballast
  • 75-yard dash, canoes under 16 feet, one man in a canoe, no ballast
  • Tilting contest, one man with a pole, one with a paddle
  • All-in-all out race

Change to Canoe Club

The "Boathouse" was seriously damaged by the 1913 flood and was remodeled to become the Olentangy Canoe Club after a new dam was built on the river.[4][13] The main part of the building was torn down and replaced with a 1.5-story structure.[14][1] The bowling alleys were warped from water damage,[13] so they were removed and replaced with lavatories, shower baths, and private clothes lockers in 1914. The structure was also remodeled to accommodate more boats than the 110 boats available in 1912[15] to 300 boats and canoes within two years.[16] Boat rides were 10 cents (about $3 in 2022) per trip.[17][18] Commodore Joe Keenan improved the boathouse, and Manager Harris replaced all the old steel row boats in 1917.[19]

1934 Fire

After about four years of disuse, the boathouse burned down on March 30, 1934.[20][14][4] Fire Chief E. P. Welch blamed the fire on children building a bonfire near the building.[21] The water had not yet been turned on for the season, hampering firefighter efforts to quell the fire.[20] The total estimated cost of the damage was $2,500[22]-$3,000[14] (around $58,600-$70,300 in 2024).


According to the Columbus Dispatch article covering the 1934 fire, the boathouse building was built in 1900.[14]



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Olentangy Then and Now." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 3 May 1914. Pg. 46.
  2. "Still Another: Presbyterian Ladies Contract a July Excursion to Olentangy Park." The Marion Star (Marion, Ohio). 2 June 1897. Pg. 4.
  3. "Olentangy Park." The Bucyrus Evening Telegraph (Bucyrus, Ohio). 25 June 1897. Pg. 3.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hyatt, Shirley. Clintonville and Beechwold. Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
  5. "Olentangy Park: Naphtha Launch on the River -- New Electric Light Plant." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 16 May 1896. Pg. 6.
  6. "Olentangy Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 27 May 1898. Pg. 11.
  7. Columbus Evening Dispatch. 19 April 1914. Pg. 12.
  8. Campbell, Alex. "Olentangy Park Chronology." Clintonville History by Shirley Hyatt. Published 18 July 2018.
  9. "Out for Salvage." The Columbus Evening Dispatch. 8 July 1904. Pg. 3.
  10. "Saved From Death in Olentangy Dam Pool." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 21 May 1905. Pg. 1-2.
  11. "Canoeists Will Organize a Club." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 26 August 1909. Pg. 2.
  12. "Canoeists Have Fine Sport in a Regatta." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 29 August 1909. Pg. 8.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Barret, Richard E. "Olentangy Park: Four Decades of Fun." Columbus and Central Ohio Historian. Vol. 1. April 1984. Pg. 11.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Olentangy Boat House Destroyed." The Columbus Dispatch. 30 March 1934. Pg. 1.
  15. "Canoeists are Promised Good Accommodations." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 23 February 1913. Pg.9.
  16. "Olentangy Park Opens." The Lantern. 29 April 1914. Pg. 4.
  17. "Olentangy Park, Founded in 1893, Long Was Amusement Mecca for Central Ohio." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 1 April 1938. pg. 1.
  18. "Olentangy Park Opens." The Lantern. 29 April 1914. Pg. 4.
  19. "Canoeing." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 29 April 1917. Pg. 20.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Barret, Richard E. "Olentangy Park: Four Decades of Fun." Columbus and Central Ohio Historian. Vol. 1. April 1984. Pg. 15.
  21. "Children Are Blamed." The Columbus Dispatch. 31 March 1934. Pg. 2.
  22. "Fire Runs." The Columbus Dispatch. 31 March 1934. Pg. 2.