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Historic Canandaigua Boathouses

Rows of charming wooden boathouses on Canandaigua City Pier have a distinct old village “seaside “charm . The Historic Canandaigua Boathouses rustic beauty and unique personality make a visit to the Canandaigua Pier a Summer bucket list activity.

If you ever find yourself in the Canandaigua area, make it a point to schedule time to visit the Canandaigua City Pier, and check out the boathouses. It is worth the effort!

Located along the Canandaigua City Pier, which was constructed in 1848, the series of 80 small wooden boathouses clustered on three “Fingers” off the main pier are unlike anything else you will find on any of the other Finger Lakes.

The boathouses are all unique, and all seem to have their own personality. Each one different from the next, but none seem out of place. The boathouses serve as a place to dock your boat. Some only have space for the boat, while others have a second story with lounging and rest areas.

Where small town meets shoreline

As much as I think it would be cool to use one of these boathouses as a minimalist cottage, A strict home owner’s association prohibits people from actually living in these boathouses, in fact you can be subject to a $50 fine from the Boathouse Owners Association for spending the night in your boathouse, but they are almost always activity in this small community during the summer months. I was visiting during spring break and many owners where there opening up their boathouses and making some imporvements, one person was installing new flower boxes under his boasthouses windows, while another man was installing laminate flooring. Everybody was friendly and took the time to stop their work and say hello.

Historic Marker on Canandaigua City Pier., with boathouses in the background.
Historic Marker on Canandaigua City Pier.

A historic maker as been placed, on the pier overlooking the boathouses, and provides a brief history of the pier and the boathouses. It reads:

“The city pier was built in 1848, and the first boat houses were built during the 1850’s. Simple wooden boathouses contained mostly small skiffs while larger ones housed sculling shells, sailing and steam yachts. By 1888, over 80 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 accomodate 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. Soon after the Boathouse Owners Association was 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 picturesqe reminder of our heritage. In 1990, the city of Canandaigua added them to the Canandaigua Historic District to preserve their heritage. “

While the Finger Lakes is loaded with charming towns and unique attractions, I think Boathouse Row in Canandaigua is one of the most captivating, and I am not the only one who finds the pier-side novelty irresistible, each summer boathouse row attracts amateur photographers and painters alike.


While you are in the area:

Canandaigua has plenty to offer to keep you entertained if you are planning a day trip. Check out my top recommendations below:

Restaurants:

Other Treats:

  • Abbotts Frozen Custard– About a 7 minute walk from the Canandaigua City Pier you will find Abbotts frozen custard. Founded in 1902 in Rochester, and serves up the best ice cream in the area. Get the waffle cone, you won’t be disappointed!
  • Young Lion Brewing Company– If you are craving craft beer, check yout Young Lion, almost right next door to Abbotts. Outdoor setting is where it is at during the summer months. I’m not a beer drinker, so I have nothing to add about beer selections, but hubby likes it and location is excellant during warmer weather.

Other Nearby Attractions:

  • Sonnenberg GardensThe 50-acre estate is one of just two public gardens in all of the New York State Parks System. A serene respite just blocks away from downtown Canandaigua, stroll the gardens and tour the mansion.
  • Roseland Waterparkthe largest (and I am pretty sure only) water park in the Finger Lakes Region with 56 acres of aquatic adventure & 9 unique attractions for the entire family.
  • Ontario Pathways Trail– If hiking or biking is your thing, take advantage of the 22 mile trail from Canandaigua to Phelps. Beautiful well maintained trails featuring small waterfalls make this trail a treat. Enjoy the whole trail or just a section to stretch your legs. A map is available on the Ontario Pathways website, but I recommend using the ALLTrails app.
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Patricia Hunter

Monday 7th of September 2020

Interesting article.... having spent my early youth in Keiuka Park and we had a yearly visit to Roseland.... when it was still an amusement park. But I never knew about the boat houses.... being used as true boathouses..... great article....

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