Landmark status won’t change Stow Lake boathouse plans 

Much to the dismay of diehard Stow Lake boathouse admirers, preserving the building as a local landmark will not foil the new manager’s plan to build a cafe where the boats are refurbished.

In an attempt to put the kibosh on gutting the repair shop and replacing it with an indoor eating area, members of the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition requested in November that The City preserve the boathouse as is.

However, while preservation commissioners have said they are interested in designating the 62-year-old building as a local landmark, staff members have said that would only protect the aesthetics.

“We can’t mandate use,” said City Planner Mary Brown, who prepared the 27-page document the commission is reviewing.

The character-defining features of the boathouse will not be affected by changes in the use of the boathouse or the tenant, or by seismic upgrades and ordinary repairs, the report states.

The boathouse, built in Golden Gate Park in 1949, is a one-story, rustic wood building with a full basement.

According to planning documents, it was built in a distinctive Alpine Chalet style with sculpted, exposed rafter tails, functional shutters and wide projecting eaves that embody high artistic values.

But even if the boathouse is made a landmark structure before the new manager — Ortega family Enterprises — starts building in November, Ortega would simply have to keep the original structure in mind.

Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition leader Suzanne Dumont, who helped organize a major push to oppose proposed changes, said the repair shop is “what really defines the boathouse.”

“They don’t own the building and the truth is the Historic Preservation Commission can protect the change,” Dumont said.

Recreation and Park Department Property Manager Nick Kinsey said there is no shortage of ways people have achieved that in the past, sometimes by simply painting a line to show where a wall that needs to be demolished originally was.

“The preservation is not really going to affect the project,” Kinsey said.

Dumont filed the request to initiate preservation on Nov. 22. Ten days later the Recreation and Park Commission voted to approve the new lease with Ortega Family Enterprises under the premise that capital improvements would be made.

Then on Feb. 1 the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to uphold that decision.

The Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted last week to table the preservation project until it is ready to landmark all of Golden Gate Park.

Preserving character

Golden Gate Park was listed under the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, but the Stow Lake boathouse was not considered to be a contributor. Here are some of the features city planners think should be retained:

  • Painted features and accents colors including the trim, shutters, doors, awning, surrounds and alternating horizontal cladding
  • Boat hoist support and beam
  • Wide overhanging eaves, with projecting, sculpted rafter tails
  • Sawn cut-out fretwork in the side gables at the east and west elevations
  • V-shaped bay ticket booth, V-shaped bay window, exterior counter and bulkhead panel
  • All exterior doors and door types

Source: Planning Department

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