An intriguing part of Mount Dora's lakefront, Boathouse Row's exact origin is ambiguous. It was a fish camp. It was built for commerce purposes. It was because a wooden boat works was located there.
These are some of the answers longtime Mount Dora residents provide about the history of Boathouse Row, a small stretch of eclectic homes perched on pilings on Lake Dora's eastern edge. However, the definitive answer--backed up with historical facts-to why and when Boathouse Row began was elusive.
The earliest dated information uncovered was a vintage colorized postcard with the caption, Boat House Row/ Mount Dora, FL -- 1907. The postcard shows three boat houses on the eastern shoreline of Lake Dora with boats out on the water.
Greg Phillips, the helpful reference librarian at W. T. Bland Public Library, located a 1921 land survey of the property belonging to a Mr. White indicating there were 12 boathouses built on Boathouse Row when the lake was part of the transportation system for the citrus industry.
Wise Boat Works is often mentioned in Boathouse Row history. Mount Dora native, Edee Waite Robinson shared an excerpt from The Mount Dora Yacht ClubCommemorative History 1913 to 1993 (by Eldon and Martha Herron) in which the owner of the Minnesota boat building company, Harry Wise, was commissioned to build a wooden sailboat for the Yacht Club in 1921. Some members also commissioned Wise to build boats, including Charles Edgerton, president of Lakeside Inn.
Edgerton was impressed with Wise Boat Works and determined it should move to Mount Dora, which it did in 1926. Edgerton bought a boathouse on Boathouse Row, financed the business, and Wise Boat Works operated for a number of years. The boathouse still remains at the end of Boathouse Row. Next to it stands a metal container for the wood chips and sawdust--the byproduct of wooden boat construction.
The 1940s and '50s ushered in the remodeling period of the boathouses. Tired of driving back and forth on weekends, some of the owners began renovating. Apartments were added and more elaborate homes were built.
Today, Boathouse Row is home to approximately 20 residences. Some are modern while others still hint to a time past. Unable to find the definitive reason for the start of Boathouse Row, perhaps it is the obvious: people built boathouses to store their boats for easy access to the water whether it was for work or recreation.