For over 100 years the much-loved Boathouse has played a role in the social life of Nelson. Friendships have formed, the sea has been a source of recreation and above boards many a couple have met and later married here. It is a legacy that continues to this day.
In 1906 the current building was erected by Nelson Rowing Club, later shared with and then purchased by the NZ Scout Association for the Nelson Sea Scout Troop.
From the 1940s the building was one of Nelson’s main dance venues and a band played to a packed dance hall every Saturday night, being an important source of revenue for the clubs. Suppers were of oysters and crayfish and talcum powder was scattered on the floor to aid dancing but in high tides the boards still got wet!
By the 1960s the dance era was over and the income was depleted but the building needed major repairs. When the Harbour Board offered a site at the new reclamation on Akersten Street, it was too good a deal to refuse and the rowers and sea scouts moved out.
With the building about to be washed away in the next storm the Sea Scouts decided to sell. In 1985 twenty five Nelson residents raise the $25,000 needed to purchase the building and formed the Iron Duke Boat Club Society, later changing the name to The Boathouse Society.
A major fundraising and restoration project was undertaken. Piles were replaced, the old boat and deck ramp removed, the front wall rebuilt and new deck constructed. Where possible original features were retained and old timber recycled. The Boathouse, as it is today, was born.
Since purchase restoration has been completed in two key stages. The first saw the rebuilding of the 220m2 Main Hall and the opening through the folding doors onto a magnificent promenade deck. Stage two provided a fully equipped bar and kitchen, small craft storage area and boat ramp.
The Society currently counts over 240 members. Bands play most Friday night bands & it has again become a popular place for weddings and functions. Once again The Boathouse plays an important role in the social life of Nelsonians – let the band play on!
Heritage NZ – Designated as an Historic Place Category Two
Nelson City Council Heritage listing Group A
1888 Tenders called by Nelson Rowing Club, Designed by William Houlker
1906 Construction completed
1924 Purchased by Iron Duke Sea Scouts, Used Jointly with Nelson Rowing Clubhouse
1930-1960 Popular venue for dances
1970 Nelson Rowing Club shift to new premises
1986 Iron Duke Sea Scouts relocated to Maitai Reclamation, Purchased by The Boathouse Society
1992 September: Stage One Structural Restoration began
1993 September: Stage One completed
1994 September: Stage Two Restoration completed (bar, boat storage, ramp) and lounge.
1995 Purchase of boats for members
2003 Cafe Opens
2017 Voted Nelson’s Best Music Venue