Old Choate boathouse demolished in Wallingford

Old Choate boathouse demolished in Wallingford

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — The Choate Rosemary Hall boathouse, which sat on the site of Community Lake for 82 years, is now gone. 

A stone border wall and part of the concrete structure are all that remains at 320 Washington St. after demolition of the building finished last month. 

Public Works Superintendent Steven Palermo said his department oversaw the project, performed by a contractor.

The boathouse demolition process took place during the last three weeks of April, at the same time as the demolition of the Civil Defense building, which was on a neighboring parcel at 284 Washington St.

Choate’s rowing teams used the boathouse from 1937 to 1979, when the Community Lake dam broke and the lake disappeared. Choate then relocated its crew program.

The town acquired the boathouse and two-acres in June 2015 in exchange for a portion of Beaumont Avenue that the prestigious private school needed for a building project.  

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the boathouse property and surrounding area could be developed into a park.

“It could be a beautiful area for passive recreation,” Dickinson said.

“There’s no plan right now,” he added. “Certainly money is in short supply.”

The Town Council approved the boathouse demolition in November 2018 along with two other demolition projects: the old Wooding-Caplan building behind the police station on North Main Street and the Civil Defense building, located on the same parcel as the Spanish Community of Wallingford facility.

Funding for all three was bundled together, at $180,470.

Austin Meeks, who graduated from Choate in 1916 and from Yale University in 1920, was the crew coach when the boathouse was constructed in 1937.

Austin Meeks’ son, 78-year-old Jonathan Meeks, currently lives in Wardsboro, Vermont.

In November, Meeks said that although he was interested in acquiring a souvenir from the boathouse, he hadn’t contacted anyone locally.

Meeks said in November that in its prime, the boathouse was “very nice … finished with nice floors and walls.”

The racing shells were stored on racks and arranged pointing toward Community Lake, he said. His father worked on boats that needed fixing in a downstairs workshop.

There was an office, locker room and showers, he said, and even a cottage for caretaker Domonic DeBaise, whom the students called “Skipper.” 

Twitter: @LCTakores