M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
A full movie theater with a screen that says "The Boys in the Boat"

On Christmas Day, communities around the world gathered for the premier of George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat.” This movie is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Daniel James Brown and the inspiring account of the University of Washington rowing team that shocked the world with a gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A beloved story close to heart and home for those in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in Seattle, the Murdock Trust was thrilled to be part of preserving this important legacy. Alongside a number of community partners, we are pleased to support the University of Washington’s renovations of the historic ASUW Shell House.

The Shell House has been a place of connection and collaboration for many generations. Long before the building’s construction, the location was a natural portage for tribal communities, connecting these waters to a long history of canoe culture. When the building was constructed in the final years of WWI, it was used to store planes and train pilots. It went on to become home of the famed boatbuilder George Pocock’s workshop and headquarters for the victorious 1936 crew. It also hosted the resurgence of the UW Women’s Rowing in 1969.

A purple sign that says "W Rowing" with a queue line next to it.

With preservation and revitalization, this historic building will serve as a cultural and educational hub for indigenous canoe culture, Seattle’s importance in the history of US rowing, military and aviation history, and more. It will honor the many long hours of grit and perseverance that these walls have witnessed, from Pocock’s skillful woodcraft to the 1936 crew’s determination. And it will invite the public into the story through seminars, workshops, presentations, and events.

Three individuals pose in front of a sign that says "The Boys in the Boat" at the University of Washington

The Trust is grateful to not only support this cultural preservation, but to celebrate the resurgence of this Pacific Northwest story. Romanita Hairston, CEO, and Jeremy White, program officer for Civic Engagement & Community Services, were invited to attend a pre-screening of the “Boys in the Boat” film at the University of Washington. Watching this story receive the attention it has long deserved, at the place where much of the hard work was put in, was inspiring to say the least. It reminded us all that it was only through pulling together that the 1936 crew won gold; and it is only through pulling together that our communities will remember this story, and so many others.

Thank you to the University of Washington and our many community partners for preserving the rich legacy of this Shell House, and for inviting us into the story.

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