Litchfield Club Pulls Together

The new boathouse taking shape in Litchfield. Photo by Laurie Gaboardi.

LITCHFIELD—The Litchfield Hills Rowing Club will soon have a new boathouse on Bantam Lake that will allow the thriving rowing program to continue growing.

Construction on the new boathouse at the Litchfield Town Beach off North Shore Road began a month ago with the demolition of the old structure. The new boathouse will be 5,000 square feet and will store 24 boats—the eight-man rowing shells are 55 feet long and the four-man shells measure 42 feet.

The overall project totaled just under $200,000, and the construction is being done by Graber Supply from Lancaster County, Pa.

“We’re excited about the growing crew program among our middle school and high school students, as well as the adult, or masters, population,” said Egils Bogdanovics, the club captain.

The Litchfield Hills Rowing Club started in the 1960s as a program for Litchfield High School and Wamogo Regional High School, which serves students in Morris, Warren and Goshen. The first boathouse was built by high school students.

“The boathouse has been there for 40-something years. It was getting to the point where it was smaller than it needed to be, and the roof and siding needed to be replaced. Rather than renovate the old boathouse, [we] decided to build a new one,” said Stephen Siegfried, treasurer for the rowing club. The former structure accommodated eight boats.

According to Mr. Siegfried, the boathouse project has been in the planning stages for a long time.

“I took management of the project about four years ago. I scaled it back to something achievable and doable,” he said in a phone interview.

During the last four years, Mr. Siegfried has worked tirelessly to get bids, put together a business plan and get the town on board. The Taft School in Watertown joined forces with the rowing club on the project, and was instrumental in assisting with the funding, along with the Seherr-Thoss Foundation and Charitable Trust in Litchfield.

“It is going to be a great asset for the rowing club to get our equipment under cover, as well as providing of a long term facility for the club and the community,” said Mr. Siegfried, who added the rowing club is open to the public and to anyone interested in joining.

Mr. Siegfried said the bulk of the rowing club involves high school students; there are 60 from Litchfield and 30 kids from The Taft School, a private college preparatory school.

The rowing club plans to complete the boat house in two or three weeks, and Nickerson Construction in Torrington has volunteered to help with pouring the concrete for the flooring.

“Back when the jail was in Litchfield, adjacent to the courthouse, they gave prisoners the option to paint the boathouse rather than spend the day in jail,” recalled Mr. Siegfried, offering a bit of trivia.

Ted Murphy, the principal of E.J Murphy Realty LLC, was among those who got the club off the ground and helped with the first boathouse project. He said he is thrilled that the club is continuing to thrive under the leadership of Egils Bogdanovics.

“The first crew team was started in 1967 by a teacher in Litchfield High School named Gordon Hayward, and we were on the first team. That club ran until 1975 when he left the school,” said Mr. Murphy. “In 1980, a group of us got together and helped restart it. I was president three times, I brought Taft [School] into the program and I also expanded the program to include the Forman School.”

Mr. Murphy said that the group doubled the size of the boathouse in the 1990s. “I was there right through the infancy of the program. It was a great program and is still a great program today. In the 1980s, we started the adult division, and that combined with the kids and this works very well,” said Mr. Murphy. “I am actually very thrilled. It’s a wonderful program and the kids love it, and I have enjoyed watching it thrive.”

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