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The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed boathouse for Madison that never was

UW-Madison’s crew team wanted a boathouse on the Yahara River.

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Frank Lloyd Wright designed a boathouse for the Badgers in 1905. | Photo via Wright’s Boathouse

In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a boathouse for UW-Madison.

The plans were commissioned by a rower named Cudworth Beye. He was a student commodore of the crew team. Beye and his teammates wanted a second site they could row out of when Lake Mendota was too windy, choppy, or frozen over.

Wright agreed to do it if the students could fund it. Since the students couldn’t come up with the cash, the boathouse remained on paper only.

That is, until 2007 when it was finally built, but not in Madison.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Fontana Boathouse is now on the shore of Black Rock Channel in Buffalo, New York. Its horizontal lines, cohesiveness with nature, and general austerity make it an unmistakable, quintessential Wright design.

It is now run by a nonprofit and offers tours. It can be rented out for weddings and more.