In mid-September, the Hudson River Rowing Association and The Mid-Hudson Rowing Association hosted a historic, 5,000-meter race along the course used from 1895 to 1951 by crews competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s annual championship. It was the first time in more than a decade that boats vied for the fastest time on the route that once attracted entrants from universities across the country, including the young men memorialized in the best-selling book The Boys in the Boat.
These races also drew tens of thousands of spectators annually. The luckiest traveled alongside the rowers. They sat on grandstands attached to flatcars chugging down the rail line on the Hudson’s western shore. The crews raced downstream from today’s Culinary Institute of America campus in Hyde Park to Poughkeepsie’s Mid-Hudson Bridge (passing under the railroad bridge, now Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park). Prior to winning their race here in 1936, the University of Washington “boys” also rowed upstream to Franklin Roosevelt’s house, hoping to visit with the president. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in. Later that year, they had better luck at the Olympics in Berlin, winning a gold medal.