For most longtime Wichitans, the word "boathouse" doesn't conjure up images of Bill Koch and his yacht. To them, it brings back memories of a far different building — the Riverside Boathouse, built and operated for decades by the Israel family.
That boathouse, south of the Murdock Street Bridge on the Little Arkansas River, was the second of Wichita's three boathouses since the 1880s.
And to many it was the most beloved. It was razed in 1968 as part of an urban renewal project, replaced by a retaining wall just below the bridge.
The Riverside Boathouse was born in the 1890s. Wichita builder R.C. Israel bought the property, which had previously been used for a slaughterhouse, and started building his boathouse.
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Aside from providing income, the business had an added advantage of keeping his children and grandchildren busy.
Each summer, the boathouse sponsored a grand opening featuring music, fireworks, and canoe and rowboat racing.
The climax was usually a fire dive. A tower platform was built on the roof of the boathouse, reaching 85 feet above the river. The Little Arkansas River was much deeper then, reaching depths of up to 20 feet in some places. A circle of oil would be set on fire on the river, and divers atop the tower would be set on fire and dive into the floating ring of fire.
Wichitans grew fond of the Israels' boats.
Question: What were the names of the Israels’ boats?
Answer to Saturday’s question: Carpenter Place, formerly Maude Carpenter's Children's Home, is now near 13th and Meridian.
Check Kansas.com on Monday for the answer to today’s question.