A Non-Profit corporation incorporated in 1962. Lake Merritt Rowing Club is a member of the United States Rowing Association.
Rowers have been competing on "Oakland's Crown Jewel" ever since civic leader Samuel Merritt dammed up an arm of the San Antonio Estuary in 1869 to create Lake Merritt.
Homeowners who live along the lake built small, private boathouses and invited their friends and neighbors to see who was the better rower. An entrepreneur rented canoes and flatboats from the 12th Street Dam, and the occasional spontaneous sprint would draw a crowd of onlookers.
At the turn of the century, Oaklanders embarked on a progressive City Beautiful movement, and approved $8 million in bonds for a new City Hall, Lakeside Park and a Municipal Boathouse at Lake Merritt. The new boathouse was built with the 1906 earthquake in mind. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it housed a pumping station for firefighters in the mid-section and the two wings were used to store canoes, sailboats and rowboats. The boats were available to the public, expanding lake access to others besides the wealthy lakeside homeowners. The upper floor of the East wing was a tea room for spectators.
A year later, Oakland high schools began sending their students to Lake Merritt for physical fitness. It was common then to see young women in ankle-length white dresses, pulling themselves around the lake in wooden rowboats. Every year, crews of boys and girls hosted a Water Carnival, and decorated their boats with flowers to make them look like swans and dolphins.
Thousands put on their finest suits and dresses and gathered for Lake Merritt's first adult regatta in 1916. The boathouse offered balconies and refreshments for spectators, and anyone who wanted to could test their mettle in a boat.