Boathouses were historically constructed on open water, typically rivers and lakes and occasionally seaside, for the primary purpose of storing boats. The types of boats generally stored would be smaller crafts, for both leisure and sporting use. The types of boathouses found in the Lake Country area which adorn various lake properties outwardly appeal to be of an entirely different nature than some of the grand old boat houses constructed during the 19th century for various rowing and yacht clubs across the United States, which were designed to hold multiple crafts and accommodate the clubs’ large gatherings. However the essence of their function and spirit has many similarities.

Not too long ago, many lake homeowners boasted boathouses on their property, ranging from simple utilitarian structures to more ornate and ambitious designs. However, in response to construction booms on waterways and inland lakes in the 1960s, the state of Wisconsin adopted new ordinances designed to protect shoreland and provide more consistency with developing shoreland property. New zoning ordinances restricted how close a structure could be placed to the water’s edge, along with minimum lot sizes for lake front property. Since this time, the only “new” shelters now permitted for boats are lifts or shorestations that may have a roof but no walls or sides. And for those lucky luxury lake homeowners with boathouses that were grandfathered in, repair and enhancement can be a tricky negotiation.

Today in the Lake Country area, boathouses are a treasure, with glimpses of the boating and lifestyle history of yore and opportunities for a new purpose. Depending on the original structure, wet or dry, many lake homeowners have found a way to preserve the original intent of their construction and add personal modern touches that reflect enhancements to the main home and accommodate the entertaining and lifestyle needs of the current owners. Boathouses today can offer an extension of the luxury lake home’s living space, enhancing the properties’ views and proximity to the water. Whether guest quarters, dining alternatives, a quiet escape or storage for water activities, the right custom homebuilder can transform this coveted structure into the highlight of your property.


The re-imagining of an iconic boathouse on Pewaukee Lake in Southeastern Wisconsin is an excellent example of customizing the original structure to be an extension of the lake home’s living space. It provides an inviting space for entertaining friends and family to enjoy lake views, relax after treasured lake activities as well as shelter from the storm. It inspires the potential comfort and functionality that boathouses have to offer.