Turtle Rock Light - Philadelphia, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 39° 58.201 W 075° 11.395
18S E 483781 N 4424446
Quick Description: Turtle Rock Lighthouse is part of 15 Boat House Road on Kelly drive and is an historic district contributing property for the NRHP Boat House Row & National Historic Landmark,
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 8/12/2013 1:08:14 AM
Waymark Code: WMHT7V
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member harleydavidsonandy
Views: 3

Long Description:

The Turtle Rock Light is a lighthouse completed in the summer 1887 and was originally built to guide steamboats down the Schuylkill River. Ideas for a lighthouse to provide safety for river users appeared in meeting minutes dating back to the 1820s. It wasn't until the early 1880s was a formal request made for a lighthouse at Turtle Rock. It was listed as necessary, but not urgent, and therefore delayed until 1887. The lighthouse was constructed by Frank Thurwanger at a cost of $2,663 on an area of land just west of Boathouse Row. The lighthouse has a hexagonal lantern room with an octagonal walkway. Gas was first used to power the light, but in 1990, when the lighthouse was repainted and received a new wooden balustrade and newel posts, the beacon was electrified. SOURCE It is my understanding the home owners may actually own the light. The land on which the structures of Boat House Row rest is owned by the Fairmount park Commission, a municipal agency. The individual boathouses are under private club ownership. (1982 NRHP Nomination form for Boat House Row)

In 1887, the Fairmount Park Commission granted approval for a lighthouse to be built near Turtle Rock – a rock formation, resembling a giant tortoise shell, located on the hill above the boathouses. Besides skaters and rowers, the Schuylkill was also home to ships of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, which transported anthracite coal from upstate Pennsylvania to Philadelphia and would benefit from a light near the dam. As part of an agreement struck with the navigation company when the dam was constructed, the city also built a canal and locks to permit navigation on the river to continue. SOURCE

I was surprised to find the last house on boathouse row had a lighthouse attached to it, at least until I found out the whole story: The Sedgeley Club, formed in 1897 as the Bicycle, Barge and Canoe Club, originally occupied boathouse #14, but in 1902 applied for permission from the Fairmount Park Commission to build a new home at #15 Boathouse Row. The structure was completed the following year with its western end encircling the base of the Turtle Rock Lighthouse. The building, designed by Arthur H. Brockie, was adapted to encompass the lighthouse that predated it. Brockie designed a shingle, colonial revival house. After completing this design, Brockie joined the University Barge Club in 1902.

The club’s membership was initially composed of Philadelphia ladies who enjoyed canoeing on the Schuylkill River, but by World War II the club had transformed into more of a social organization. The Sedgeley Club remains an exclusive woman’s club hosting numerous social gatherings as well as fundraising events that help maintain the historic boathouse and the treasured Turtle Rock Lighthouse, which is only lit on special occasions. They are stil there today as their coat of arms is still on the house and they advertise their presence within the house as well.

Historically speaking, on May 9, 1902, the Fairmount Park Commission finally granted them the land on which to build a clubhouse with a costly stipulation that the Club prove they had the funds available to complete the project and absorb the cost of moving the utility building that had served the lighthouse. The Philadelphia Press named the laying of the Sedgeley Club cornerstone on December 26, 1902, a "...unique and historical ceremony in which only women participated." At a total cost of $11,531.00, Sedgeley Club opened its doors one year later, eventually having as many as 337 Philadelphia women in membership enjoying bicycling, canoeing and socializing. SOURCE

From the Nomination Form, November 27, 1983:

Boat House #15 -- Sedgeley Club
The Sedgeley's Club's boathouse was erected in 1902-03. Using a combination of the Shingle ad Colonial Revival styles, Arthur H. Brockie created a house which complements the older houses on the Row and incorporates the old lighthouses which has stood on this point since the early 19th century.

Measuring 1½ stories high, the street front of the building has a large five-sided bay topped by a parapet filling th left bay, and a door opening surmounted by a gable and flanked by one window opening on the left and two opening on the right; each containing 9/1 double-hung sash, filling the center and right bays. The front of the building curves to meet the side section which surrounds the old lighthouse. Three hipped dormers appear on the moderately pitched roof.

The north section of the building is curved and several openings appear containing single or paired 12/1 double-hung sash. A parapet exists above The south (or east) elevation contains a door opening on the basement level with an arched window opening above, a narrow rectangular opening filling the right bay, and a square opening filling the central left bay of the ground floor. Two square openings and 6/1 double-hung sash appear on the second floor. a 2-story, partially open, porch stretched across the river elevation. The lighthouse has two arched openings at different levels and on different elevations providing light to the stairway inside, and an eight-sided walkway surrounding the sex-sided light.

The Sedgeley Club today operates a social club rather than a rowing club. When the house was erected, it had boat storage facilities. The deterioration of the slip, and the need for space to service the social functions of the club, led the members to arrange for storage of their boats in the Public Canoe House and remove the slip. The Colonel Dames of America, Chapter 11, share the clubhouse with the Sedgeley Club. (Item 7 page 10; item 7, page 11)

Height of Look-Out Tower in feet: 30.00


Opening times and fees:
Call for admittance to walk up; they allow people to visit

Parking Area: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
Please log only if you have been up there and you must include a photo of the scenic view from the top.
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