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Hutchinson Boat Works


Runabouts

During the late 1920s, triple cockpit runabouts came to be the preferred Hutchinson model. Construction started on these craft in 1925 and continued for the decade1. They were stock boats with V bottoms, carvel planked or lapstrake, all mahogany, 26 to 28 feet over all with a 6 foot 6 inch beam and were equipped with a 100 hp Redwing engine. The shop would construct anywhere from 3 to 8 boats at a time. The V hull is somewhere between a semi-displacement and a full planning hull. The boats didn’t level off as their speed increased making the hull stable on the choppy conditions the St. Lawrence was famous for.

These runabouts had three cockpits: the forward section was for the driver while the other two seating areas were for passengers. The engine was enclosed between the two aft cockpits, with decked doors. Differences from one boat to another depended on the stain, engine type, upholstery and hardware.

The Go-Getter and Vagabond King, twin runabouts, were built for twin brothers, Thomas Wheeler Dewart and William T. Dewart. They were built in 1926 and raced in the Chamber of Commerce 30 Mile Class Race with the Go Getter placing second2. These craft were 30’0” long with a 7’ beam.

Another runabout, the Cossack, was built in 1929 as one of two 24’stock boats. She was built with Mexican mahogany, "finished in natural color, genuine leather upholstery and chromium finished trimming. 120 hp Chrysler Marine motor will be installed.” In 1930, the boat was sold to the Moore family of Basswood Island as a graduation gift for Anson Moore. The current owners, Windsor and Kay Price purchased her in 1953. She survived a near fatal catastrophe during the storm of 1979 when she broke loose from her boat house moorings and was found on the rocks at the base of the Thousand Island Bridge. The bottom has been repaired and can be seen during the summer riding on the St. Lawrence near Thousand Island Park.

One of the largest and best known runabouts is the Pardon Me. She was constructed for Charlie Lyon of Ogdensburg and Oak Island in 1947 for the sum of $48,000.00. The September 4, 1947 issue of the Thousand Islands Sun3 recalled:

The Pardon Me as the forty seven foot runabout type boat is called, was designed by John L. Hacker, well known marine designer from ideas and suggestions of Mr. Lyon. Construction was begun at the local plant of the Hutchinson Boat Works in December of last year. The huge speedster is constructed of mahogany throughout. Among the new features incorporated in the design are hydraulic steering apparatus and hydraulic controls of clutch and other motor controls. All stripping and guard rails as well as most of the fittings are chrome.

The power plant consists of a V-type, twelve cylinder Packard marine engine similar to that used by P. T. boats during the war. It is capable of up to 1500 hp and will drive the boat at speeds in excess of sixty miles per hour. The fuel used by the engine is 100 octane gasoline. It is equipped with three gasoline tanks having an aggregate capacity of six hundred gallons. The cockpits are luxuriously furnished with air foam cushions.

When the construction was finished, she was christened by the Bert Hutchinson’s daughter, Aletha Hutchinson Laidlaw. Although it had the latest inventions and designs, Charlie Lyon was never pleased with the Pardon Me and never used due to Mr. Lyon’s illness. The boat sat at Hutchinson’s for several years until it was sold in 1951 to D. H. Locke and went to Michigan. Locke changed the name of the boat to the Lock Pat III and owned her for 26 years before selling it to Nick Beck, who restored and brought it back to the St. Lawrence River. Beck spent six years painting, varnishing, reupholstering, and solving the mechanical problems that had plagued the boat since it was built5.

Jim and Tony Lewis bought the boat from William M. Theisen in 1985 and donated it to the Antique Boat Museum5. In 1998, the museum, with the assistance of Bob Schroeder and John Freeman, reconditioned the engines and in honor of her 50th birthday, and put her back in the water for use during various events throughout the summer season.

Sedans

During the 1930s, Hutchinson’s began constructing sedan boats while they were building runabouts and utilities. These boats ranged in size from 28 feet to 40 feet in length and had a hard top, with bench seating underneath the hard top preferably on the left hand side. There was an aft cockpit and they were finished bright inside. The Thousand Island Sun noted in 1936:

The Hutchinson Boat Works are just completing another of their $10,000 special mahogany sedan type motor boats. The boat is 35 feet over all with an 8 foot 4 inch beam, built of all Mexican mahogany, chromium plated trimmings, the cabin to be fitted with chromium plated tubular chairs, all cushions are manufactured from the new Dunlopillo rubber, which is covered with genuine leather. A 225 hp Sterling-Petrel engine will be installed giving the boat a speed of 34 miles and hour6.

Two of the larger sized sedans are the GLR (known as the Grand Lady of the River) and the Gadfly (both in the Antique Boat Museum’s collection). It is believed that the GLR was originally constructed as a launch and was known as the Keywaydin. At some point in time, a hard top was installed on the boat and she was sold and renamed NRJ7. Then in 1958 she was sold to Clover Boldt Johaneson and renamed CBJ. After Mrs. Johaneson’s death in 1964, she was offered as a gift to Dr. Burtch of Alexandria Bay; the gift was declined and was purchased by Dr. Burtch’s children instead. The boat became too much for the Burtch family and they tried to auction her at an E. J. Noble Hospital’s benefit. Only one bid of $8,000 was received and Dr. Burtch felt that the bid was below the value of the boat. When the bid was too low, Dr. Burtch8 noted:

I regret that we were not able to auction the boat as we planned so as to benefit the hospital and the Clayton Improvement Association, but my children and I are pleased that the GLR will be on exhibit at the Thousand Island Shipyard Museum where it can be seen by all. It’s good the Grand Lady will not be leaving the River after all.

The GLR was given to the Museum on September 1, 1978. She is 40 feet long with an 8 foot beam and is powered by a 151 hp Chrysler HR1047R engine. Another sedan boat in the museum’s collection is the Gadfly. She was built in 1931 for the owners at Lindenhoff of Linden Cove. She is 33 feet 6 inch and is powered by a Chrysler inboard model number 45R0204 engine.

Of all sedan boats that were constructed, the 28 foot sedan was the most popular model built during the mid to late 1930s. There are currently nine, 28’ sedan boats in existence in the United States and Canada. An excellent example of this boat is the Alexandria owned by Win and Dean Guy of Mt. Dora, Florida. She was constructed in 1939 for Mrs. Bacon of Grindstone Island. It was interesting to note that this boat was the 22nd boat9 to be constructed by Hutchinsons in 1939.

World War II

Hutchinson's temporarily halted boat construction during World War II when they won the contract to build two "training ships" or yard patrol (YP) boats, YP 78 and YP 79, with a bid of $170,000.00. The boats were to be delivered in 210 days, constructed of fir, and were to be powered by two 200-235 hp diesel engines10. In order to construct the vessels, Hutchinson’s erected a special building known as the YP Building on Crossmon Street. The building was situated left of the original Wood Shop and was 100 feet by 53 feet by 26 feet high and had a marine railway down the center of the building.

Hutchinson’s initially employed 50 to 60 men to build the YPs. At the height of construction, there were 142 men working on the ships11. The men were divided into three teams of woodworkers, with George Cook, Ted Dingman, and Joseph Simmons as the foremen for each team. There were also two teams of machinists with Glen Wilson and Ray Rogers, Sr. as foremen of each, and one team of electrical men with E. W. Pelton as the foreman. Finally, there was one team of painters with Cyriel Heath as its foreman12. To avoid duplication of effort, Ted Dingman and George Cook's teams each had specific duties13. To ensure that all the activities were coordinated, weekly meetings were held between the foreman, management and naval personnel.

YP 78 was finished on April 20, 1942 with Mrs. Hubert Hunt, wife of the Office Manager, breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow14. Then two weeks later they launched YP 79. The two craft marked the completion of $180,000.00 worth of work for the Hutchinson Boat Works, Inc. As a result of service, they received an additional contract to construct five, 38 foot buoy boats for a contract price of $50,00015. Then in October of 1942, they received a final contract to construct nine more YP boats, YP 242-246 and YP 583-591. The first five new YPs, 242‑246, were finished between August and November of 1943. Then YP numbers 583 to 591 were finished between May of 1943 and August of 1944.15 There were problems completing the last of the YPs due to availability of parts. In order to build these additional craft, Hutchinson's bought the Westcot property to the south of the first building and erected a new 200 foot by 55 foot structure.

The Navy was very particular about the condition of the craft when they were accepted. A story is told that during one summer, the Navy took one of the YPs out for a shake-down cruise. When it returned, there were beverage marks, scratches, and other damage on the varnish work in the cabins. Of course, the Navy would not accept this YP until damage was repaired by Hutchinson’s. After that incident, all the varnish work was covered with red resin paper and masking tape before a shake-down cruise17 occurred.

The last of the YPs left the shop in June of 194418. As a result of government work, a total of $1.8 million dollars was invested into the local economy, of which $427,671.98 was invested in labor, $867,540.00 was spent on materials, and $215,944.90 was spent on overhead, with only $256,254.62 left over for company profit.

Utilities

Utilities were first constructed by Hutchinson’s as early as 1928. The February 16, 1928 issue Thousand Islands Sun commented that:

A 23 foot by 6 1/2 foot V-bottom fishing boat of mahogany is being built for J. R. Ketcham of California. The power plant will be a 100 hp Chrysler marine motor. This is a type developed in the Hutchinson shop. The motor is amidships with a passageway on each side to allow easy access to the motor and from bow to stern. The forward and after decks are short, with two lockers underneath for storage and fishing tackle.

The lapstrake, fishing utility boat was their main stock boat. This craft had a single cockpit with a central engine box and came in three sizes; 16 to 18 feet, 21 to 22 feet, and 26 to 28 feet. The 22 and 26 footers were similar to the “guide boats” that were constructed in 1922 by the Duclon family in Alexandria Bay and by Fry and Denny in Clayton19. The Hutchinson utilities had a steering wheel and their characteristic anchor hoist. The boats constructed in the 1930s didn’t have a windshield. Later, several different types of windshields were available. These included windshield with more freeboard, a glass windshield with metal supports that could also fold down on the deck or a slanted wooden windshield with side panels. These options were common on pre‑World War II boats20. The 26 foot utility ranged in cost from $2,800 to $3,00021, while the 22’fisherman, a smaller version of the 26 boat, was the largest prototype produced and sold for approximately $2,40022. The Char Mar Jr. is an example of the 26 foot model. She was built in 1939 with lapstreak siding and was given to the Antique Boat museum in 1981.

Hutchinson’s also constructed the Corker, a 19’6” utility in 1939 for the Collins family at Jug Island. She was purchased by Royal C. Garlock in ca 1956. Royal C. Garlock, II (Bud) partially restored her in 1983 and installed several new ribs, new garboard planks on either side of the keel, and all new fasteners between the ribs and the planking. She has a 6’4” inch beam with a V-6 150 hp, Buick LaSabre engine.

In addition to the utilities, one could also obtain a fishing guide boat. These boats were soft chined, lapstrake boats that had a distinctive side steer (tiller) on the starboard with a central console amid-ships over the engine. On either side of the engine were individual seats. This is the model that was developed by Dan and Fred Duclon in the 1920s23. It was customary for the lapstreak‑sided boat to have a short deck, a side steering stick usually on the starboard. The Museum has in its possession two guide boats, one built in 1948 and recently donated by Milt Rose and an unnamed guide boat built circa 1938 that was given to the museum in 1992 by Michael Chavoustie and was sold in 1996. The 16 to 18 foot boat was considered a “baby” guide boat and was powered by a four cylinder, Universal Redwing engine.

Hutchinson’s always had several stock boats available for sale. Bert was known to take a group of hunters or fishermen out in a boat and show off the merits of the craft. If they liked the boat they were in, he would sell it to them as is, or modify it to fit their needs or build them an entirely new boat24. Boats in the late 1930s to 1940s sold for $3,650.00.

Even though there were material shortages after the war, the shop continued to employ 50 men to construct their 22’ and 26’stock utility boats. (This was unusual because the shop normally employed approximately 30 men). According to Bob Gove of Chippewa Bay, one of Hutchinson’s former employees, they could build fourteen boats a winter. The smooth plank boats required the services of 25 to 30 men to construct25.

Later Years

Hutchinson’s widened their existing plant in 1948 as a result of repair and storage needs. The new building, 175 feet long by 60 feet wide was added to the southeast. New overhead railways were installed to facilitate movement.

Bert Hutchinson died in 1952. Two years later as part of settlement of his estate, Glenn Furness and Cyriel Heath purchased the boat building business and simultaneously they also purchased the stock in the business that was owned by Ray Rogers. Glenn Furness became president, while Cyriel Heath was in charge of building the fishing boats. Furness was the marine architect who designed windshield details for the utilities and some of the features for the YPs. He also owned the adjacent marine basin, which he intended to operate simultaneously along with Hutchinson’s.

The two partners continued with the original name of the business and the long standing tradition of constructing of wooden boats. In 1954 they produced their first catalogue, which included a story of Hutchinson Boat Works, Inc.

As the industry expanded, the new owners expanded the types of boats that were sold. They added steel and aluminum boats to their production line and came out with several new catalogues accordingly. Their 1954 catalogue was followed with a new catalogue entitled “Little Ships” which promoted their growing line of steel boats. They also constructed a new, steel building on Holland Street in 1955 and began selling fiberglass boats in addition to their well-known wooden ones. Cyriel Heath had a heart attack in 1960 and passed his share of the business to his son-in-law Royal LaLonde. In 1963-64 Hutchinson’s constructed three, 22’ utilities over the winter and took two years to sell them. As a result, they ceased construction of the wooden boats in 1964-6526. Two years later, Glenn Furness sold his stock in the business to “four Syracuse men” with the principal stockholder and President being Royal G. LaLonde, Jr27.

In 1989, the Wooden Shop on Crossmon Street was torn down when the owners could not obtain insurance on the building. The ever-present threat of fire became a reality on April 8, 1992, when the YP shop was destroyed by arson. The fire caused over $3,000,000.00 damage to both the property and boats that were stored within the building. Lost in the fire were three, 22 foot Hutchinson utilities, a Brainard Robbins boat28 (a builder in Fisher’s Landing), and a 1903 Huck (a wooden boat builder from Rockport, Ontario). The arsonist was never apprehended.

Mr. LaLonde remained at Hutchinson’s until February, 1994 when he died, passing the business to his son Mark.

The firm of Hutchinson Boat Works, Inc. has been a tradition in Alexandria Bay since 1902. Although they are no longer building or selling wooden boats, the quality of workmanship and finishing of Hutchinson boats set a trade standard for boats being built in Alexandria Bay and elsewhere in the United States. Hutchinson built boats are a Thousand Islands tradition. They are a testament to the history of the firm’s wooden boat building business that was originally established by George and Bert Hutchinson at the turn of the century.

By Bonnie Wilkinson Mark

Bonnie Wilkinson Mark is the great grand-daughter of Bert Hutchinson of Hutchinson Boat Works in Alexandria Bay, NY.  In April 2010, Bonnie presented Joseph Leyare, The Great St. Lawrence Boat Builder for TI Life.  She returns this month with the history of the Hutchison Boat Works, which was first published in Classic Boats.  Bonnie lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with her husband Charles.  Bonnie tells us, “they have five wooden boats, one aluminum boat (“so the dog can go fishing too!”) and about 80 outboard engines”.  Bonnie  can be reached at bwmark@verizon.net .


1

Fostle, Part 2, p. 62. Also according to Windsor Price, owner of the Cossack, which was one of eight boats built in 1929.

2

Thousand Islands Sun, July 8, 1926, and Thousands Islands Sun, September 1, 1927.

3

It is interesting to note that construction started in 1946 and was finished in 1947, though everyone attributes the construction year to be 1948.

4 Watertown Daily Times, August 10, 1983, n.p. After seven years of service on the river, the boat was placed up for sale in September of 1984 and left the St. Lawrence the winter of 1985. It was rumored that the boat went to Florida and was kept on the Intercoastal Waterway, Watertown Daily Times, August 8, 1984. Today the boat is part of the Antique Boat Museum's Collection.
5

Nautical Quarterly, Vol.26, p __.

6 "Recent Boats Built By Hutchinson’s, - Fishing Boat Built For Dr. A.G. Ford - Special Sedan Type Recently Finished", Thousand Island Sun, May 14, 1936.

7 It is unknown what NRJ stands for.

8 Fax from Dorman Burtch dated November 24, 1998 and accession records file at the Antique Boat Museum.
9

The numbers were applied to pieces of the boat before they were to be taken out and varnished. The numbers verified that the right pieces got back into the right boat. In the Liza Lee, which was constructed in 1937, the number IV is stamped on various pieces within the boat, hence she was the fourth boat to be constructed in 1937. It is interesting to note that another boat owner had the back of his dash board signed by Ernie Mance of Alexandria Bay and another had his signed by Bob Gove of Chippewa Bay.

10

Thousand Islands Sun, June 12, 1941.

11

From the records of E. W. Pelton, collection of the author.

12

Ibid.

14

Watertown Daily Times, April 20, 1942.

15

Watertown Daily Times, May 7, 1942.

16

Ships Data, U. S. Naval Vessels, Vol. III (Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1946), p. 562, and p. 564; Ordinance Vessel Register, United States Navy, March 25, 1945. For more of a complete description of the YP's see George Houghton, "Building Yippies in Thousand Islands," Inland Seas, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 196-201.

17

Letter from Ross C. Hudson, Jr. dated March 15, 1992.

18

Thousand Islands Sun, June 22, 1944.

19

According to Andrew C. Duclon, it was often rumored that a member of the Duclon Family caught one of the Hutchinson men taking lines off of one of the Duclon boats. Whether or not this is true, the Duclons only built 10 to 12 of their style which were not as popular as the Hutchinson model.

20

Interview with Don Fostle on January 24, 1985.

21

Watertown Daily Times, August 10, 1983, n.p.

22

Ibid.

23

According to Andrew C. Duclon, it was often rumored that a member of the Duclon Family caught one of the Hutchinson men taking lines off of one of the Duclon boats. Whether or not this is true, the Duclons only built 10 to 12 of their style which were not as popular as the Hutchinson model.

24

Interview with John Laidlaw on October 6, 1984. Mr. Laidlaw married Aletha Hutchinson, daughter of Bert and Lillian Perry Hutchinson.

25

Interview with Bob Gove August 24, 1984.

26

Interview with Ira Bruce February 22, 1985.

27

Thousand Island Sun, April 8, 1967.

28

Hutchinson's is still in litigation concerning liability of the fire. As of this writing, the arsonist has yet to be charged, although there are several suspects under consideration.

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Comments

John  Peach
Comment by: John Peach ( )
Left at: 8:14 AM Monday, November 15, 2010
Bonnie,
Congratulations on your informative and well researched article on Hutchinson's. This is the best article I have ever read on the boat builders from Alexandria Bay, who built many of our most beautiful wood boats of the Thousand Islands.
John Peach
Herb Swingle
Comment by: Herb Swingle ( )
Left at: 6:35 PM Monday, November 15, 2010
WOW!!! Factor!!!
Dick Witihington
Comment by: Dick Witihington ( )
Left at: 7:08 PM Sunday, November 21, 2010
Bonnie,
Thank you so much for your excellent history of Hutchinson's. My very first job was working for Hutchinsons'. Glenn Furness hired me to work on the boat dock and sell gas at his marina in 1956. I worked for them 3 or 4 summers, and many of the folks in your article were familiar to me. Brings back great memories.
Dennis Honeywell
Comment by: Dennis Honeywell ( )
Left at: 11:35 AM Thursday, November 25, 2010
Bonnie: As you are aware, my Grandfather Billy Griffin worked at Hutchinson Boat Works for many decades. I can remember when I was a youngster going to the boat shop with him and playing with the scrap wood (sawn trim pieces make dandy swords) and to this day when I smell the great smells of restoration I think of that time of my life.

I look forward to more...and more...and more. Thanks
ROB JOHNSON
Comment by: ROB JOHNSON ( )
Left at: 3:01 PM Friday, December 10, 2010
Bonnie, great article. We are restoring a 1929 30' triple cockpit right now.
Ted Mascott
Comment by: Ted Mascott ( )
Left at: 11:06 AM Monday, February 21, 2011
Great article; most enjoyable. One correction: regarding Idyll Oaks and its owner. The name has an "s" on the end: Allen Youngs. The reason that he had a cottage on the edge of Zenda Farms is that his uncle was Merle Youngs. Merle Youngs purchased Zenda in the late 1930's, then consisting only of a grand home on the St Lawrence River, just up-river from Bartlett Point. Merle Youngs assembled many small farms strenthing from Zenda to Tiffy's two miles away on the Chrystal Springs Road. That became Zenda Farms. As boys, Merle Youngs nephews spent much time with their Uncle at Zenda, one of whom was Allen Youngs. He fell in love with the area and acquired the Idyll Oaks cottage (now more commonly knows as "The Birches". An interesting connection between Merle Youngs, Zenda Farms, Allen Youngs, and the start of the Antique Boat Museum.
Brian MacDonald
Comment by: Brian MacDonald ( )
Left at: 4:03 PM Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Bonnie:

Wow, what a comprehensive article!

It is interesting to note that all four Hutchinson brothers as well as their sisters Claudia and Margaret were baptized at Trinity Anglican Church, Wolfe Island, between 1878 and 1893. Their father and three of his siblings were baptized together there too, on 11 May 1852; and their mother's siblings' baptismal records are also found at the same church.
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 7:46 AM Monday, April 16, 2012
http://chazksolutions.yoursexualaids.net/2012/04/16/hutchis-boats/

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