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Recreation along the Charles:

Background of Metropolitan Park Commission


The Background of Canoeing

      In the 1870s, canoeing as a sport and recreational diversion is imported from England.

      With the existence of the American Canoe Association in 1880, canoeing interest accelerates.

      As the mass-production of canoes becomes accessible, the activity's growth becomes more attractive.

      The Report of the Joint Board - page 14 - "At present most of the pleasure boating takes place between Lower Falls and Waltham and between Upper Falls and Dedham."

Social Mores in early 1900s
    • With the rules of late-nineteenth century courtship being loosened, the youth of metropolitan Boston find a pleasant escape from their well-regulated, chaperoned homes canoeing along the river. This district along the Charles River, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, has become the major canoeing area of greater Boston.
    • Popular songs and musicals:
    • Popular outings:

    May 29, 1903, Boston Evening Transcript
    The canoeing season is now well started on the Charles River, between Waltham and Riverside.


      A large and modern boat and canoe house is to be built at Waltham by H.B. Arnold on the south bank of the river.


          Article content:
        • first floor will be accommodation for 250 canoes, with lockers and modern furnishings.
        • On the second floor there will be a workshop for finishing canoes.
        • nine doors in the front of the building
        • large float will extend to the river.





        • In 1903, the Metropolitan Parks Commission issues new rules of conduct for the crowd of boaters forbidding activities such as drinking, gambling, and "any obscene or indecent act."
        • From 1903 to 1905, 37 couples were arrested under these guidelines for kissing or lying down in canoes on this stretch of the river.
        • The young people fought back almost immediately.


      • Boston Evening Transcript - May 29, 1903
        • plans for a series of band concerts and carnivals
        • band stand
        • Newton Club will make a total of fourteen river concerts
        • Regatta on June 17
        • war canoe crews seen practicing on the river
        • Field Days BAA Boat House Field Day
        • Local boat line service Charles West Boat Lines on the White-Swan
        • Trips from the Moody Street Bridge to Norumbega on the Steamer Marjorie

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    Last modified: June 20, 2015.
    Copyright 2013 Marjorie Duby. This is the intellectual property of Marjorie Duby.