ABOVE: Mount Dora's Boat House Row. (Photo courtesy of Steve Williams, SteveWilliamsPhoto.com)
The rambling row of pilings and eclectic homes make it one of the most intriguing stretches of shoreline along Lake Dora. Mount Dora's historic Boathouse Row is a city landmark with an ambiguous origin. Local tales range from the structures beginning as a fish camp or a commercial site or that the narrow stretch of lakefront simply got its name because a wooden boatbuilder was located there.
Longtime Mount Dora residents were able to provide some insight about the history of Boathouse Row, which transformed into unique stretch of eclectic homes perched on pilings along Lake Dora's eastern edge just outside Mount Dora's historic district. However, the definitive answer of Boathouse Row's origin remains elusive.
The earliest dated information uncovered was a colorized vintage postcard with the caption, Boat House Row/ Mount Dora, FL -- 1907. The postcard shows three boat houses with small boats behind them on Lake Dora.
Greg Phillips, reference librarian at W. T. Bland Public Library, located a 1921 land survey of the property belonging to a Mr. White that indicated there were 12 boathouses built on Boathouse Row when the lake was part of the transportation system for Florida's 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 of the club's members also commissioned Wise to build boats, including Charles Edgerton, president of Lakeside Inn.
ABOVE: Vintage postcard of Boat House Row with different spelling.
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 and 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 the structures. Apartments were added and more elaborate homes were built.
Today, Boathouse Row is home to approximately 20 unique residences ranging from modern to primitive. Unable to find the definitive origin of Boathouse Row, perhaps it's the obvious: people built boathouses to store their boats for easy access to the water whether it was for work or recreation.