Keeping the St. Louis Rowing Tradition Alive Since 1875!
The first American Olympic rowing team to represent the USA in the Western Hemisphere paddled to the gold medal at Creve Coeur Lake in Maryland Heights during the Summer Games in 1904. And ever since those games, the St. Louis Rowing Club has kept the tradition alive on Creve Coeur Lake. With a wide range of skills, master to beginner, the ancient sport of rowing has been a constant in St. Louis since 1904. ~ Pat McGonigle, KSDK Channel 5, August 9, 2016
The St. Louis Rowing Club (“SLRC” or the “Club”) was first organized in June of 1875. The Club was organized by eight (8) men, and by its early years, the Club grew to having 165 members. The Club rowed shells on the Mississippi River. Its first shell was named the “St. Louis” and was built for the Club by one of the first 8 organizers, John A. Schultze.
The Club’s first boathouse on the Mississippi River was destroyed by a tornado, and in 1896, steps were taken to raise funds to build a new one.
In the early 1900s, the Club held some of its regattas at Creve Coeur Lake, and in 1904, the Olympic rowing races were held on Creve Coeur Lake. But the Club generally continued its active rowing during these years on the Mississippi River, all the way through the 1950s.
Following some less-active years in the 1960s and 1970s – though the Club never ceased operations or meetings from its inception in 1875 – the St. Louis Rowing Club re-formed in the early 1980s, and in 1983, decided to make Creve Coeur Lake its new home for training. The St. Louis County Government was a strong supporter of this move, feeling that rowing would help enhance Creve Coeur Lake. A “Rowathon” was held on the Lake on September 28, 1984, to raise money for the Club, including toward the Boathouse at Creve Coeur Lake and for new shells. One of the SLRC boats was used in the 1984 Olympics. In 1987, Washington University held a regatta on Creve Coeur Lake, including other midwestern college rowing teams.
In 1990, SLRC dedicated two rowing shells to high school rowing programs at eight St. Louis schools, in an effort to push interest in the sport down to St. Louis high schools. The high school component of SLRC took off, and has never looked back, as the program for high school boys and girls now numbers student-athletes from more than 25 high schools in the area every year.
In July of 1993, the Boathouse flooded – not once, but twice – and the second time was devastating. Only a few shells could be saved, and the Boathouse was lost. But back came the rowing programs of Juniors, of Masters, and of Washington University, with shells stored in fenced areas at the Lake. In July of 1995, a Junior Women’s four with coxswain won a second-place medal at the US Rowing National Junior Championships in Gainesville, Georgia. The following summer, a SLRC Junior Women’s lightweight four with coxswain won a gold medal at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in Ontario. With the success of the St. Louis Rowing program, fundraising and donations picked up in the late 1990s, St. Louis County Government agreed to lease park land to the Club for it to build a new Boathouse, and by 2003, 10 years after the floods that devastated the previous Boathouse, a new one in its place was being constructed.
Now, more than a decade later, SLRC boasts a Juniors rowing program of more than 125 young women and men, an adult Masters program of more than 100 women and men, a full-time head coach and multiple men and women assistant coaches, two recent Juniors national championship boats in 2013 and 2016, and multiple Masters national championship boats in recent years.