On December 12, 1979, the "castles" on Boathouse Row were lighted for the first time . . .
The Schuylkill River was first used for commercial shipping, acting as a trade route to the west of the city of Philadelphia. However, as Philadelphia expanded, it became valued as a recreational site for the more affluent persons who lived "on the Hill." As early as 1732, Barge Clubs, named for the craft used at the time, were established as purely social clubs. The first, called the "Schuylkill Colony", was the forerunner of a series of clubs which evolved into competitive boat clubs--the first recognized competition was in 1801...
In 1979 when Boathouse Row was first lighted, the display was so popular among visitors and natives alike that it was decided to continue this whimsical and delightful tradition.