The Bernard-Hoover Boat House

622 E. Gorham St.     Built 1915     Madison Landmark     National Register
At the eastern end of what now is James Madison Park, is the last remaining building of the commercial pleasure boat and boat livery industry in Madison. German born Charles Bernard started the first major commercial boating business in Madison in 1855. He provided livery service and built a variety of boats including the steamboats Columbia (1893) and Wisconsin (1905). At their peak the Bernard family operated six large pleasure boats. Charles also revolutionized the design for iceboats. The “Madison Design” provided superior speed and stability. The Bernards built the current boathouse (replaced one destroyed by fire) in 1915. Ferried picnickers to his private park near Mendota State Hospital.

They ran their business until 1943 when Harry Hoover purchased it.

In 1968 the City of Madison bought it to expand James Madison Park.