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Grenell: Decade-by-Decade

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to all Grenell Island residents – past and present -  who participated in the island’s 100th Anniversary. Special thanks to Lynn McElfresh who worked tirelessly to gather the historical material. We encourage others to record their island history – no matter the size of the island nor one island resident or many. We need to capture this material from many more islands for the generations that follow.

This ends an exciting year on Grenell. The celebration of our 100th year anniversary of the Grenell Island Improvement Association. Of course summering on Grenell is a tradition far older…which started when Sam Grenell started selling lots for summer cottages in 1880. Here’s a decade-by-decade look at the history of Grenell.


21 cottages built between 1880 and 1890

First store established at the foot of the island, A. E. Fox proprietor


25 cottages built between 1890 and 1900

3 cottages burn in that same time period

1890 Sam Grenell sells Grenell house to Sayles

1891 Grenell Island Park Store and Post Office established at head of the island.

1891 Pullman Hotel Opens on the foot of Grenell Island. Pullman is now considered a separate island

1893 Sam Grenell’s nephew George opens a third store on Grenell.

1898 Grenell Island Chapel is built


17 Cottages built between 1900 and 1910

1901 Lucy Grenell dies

1904 Pullman House burns

1904 First wedding in the Grenell Island Chapel

1908 Sam Grenell loses lawsuit and controlling interest in the island

1908 Albert Potter takes over ownership of Grenell Island Park Store


8 cottages built between 1910 and 1920

5 cottages burn down during the same time period

1910 Sam Grenell dies

1912 Grenell Island Improvement Association is formed

1912 First Sidewalks are installed on the island

1913 Two wells are dug on the island

1916 William McFadden is employed as winter caretaker of Grenell.

1917 A man breaks into a cottage and assaults two women. Neighbors come to the rescue and subdue the man. He is brought to trial and convicted.

1918 Kahn & Heffron purchase the Grenell Island Park Store


2 cottages built between 1920 and 1930

2 cottages burn in the same time period

1925 Hiram Wells takes over Grenell Island Park Store

1926 The Word “Park” is officially removed from Grenell Island

1929 Electrical power comes to the island

1929 The Grenell Island Improvement Association leases dock from the store.

1929 The Grenell island Improvement Association Dock Drive is started


1 cottage built between 1930 and 1940

1931 Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary formed

1933 Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary builds shelter at the end of the store dock

1933 Construction starts on Grenell Island Community House—another Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary Project

1934 Grenell Island Community House dedicated on July 4th

1934-on After the Community House is built, Ladies Aux hosts a weekly potluck

1935 Water so low this year, you could walk to Grenell from Hub Island.


2 cottages burn down (some Grenell Island Improvement Association records lost in the fire)

1940 Era Events at the Community House

Weekly Potlucks

Skits & Plays


1945 Edward McCord buys the Grenell Island Store

1945 VJ Day—an impromptu celebration breaks out on Grenell. Children led by the flag parade down sidewalk. Chapel bell rings until it falls off!

1948 50th anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel

1948 Another GIIA Dock fund Drive started in order to pay repairs on dock.

1949 GIIA Fire Fund started to purchase fire pumps for the island


4 cottages built between 1950 and 1960

1 cottages burns down and 2 others are either torn down or removed

1950 Era Events at the Community House

Movie night



1950 Grenell Island Store Dock is rebuilt

1950 Kraners run Store

1950 Mel Calhoun is named “fire chief”

1951 - 1959 Mel Calhoun is caretaker of the island

1952 Record high water levels caused by building of Canada’s Gut Dam

1953 Paul & Joanne Sage run Grenell Island Store

1956 Mel & Grace Calhoun run Grenell Island Store

1958 Mel Calhoun changes public dock from an L shape to a T-shape.

1959 GIIA dues increase from $5 to $8

1959 Seaway completed shipping started

1959 Public Pay phone comes to the store


1960 Ed & Ruth Slomczeweski buy the Grenell Island Store

1960 Grenell Island Public Dock rebuilt

1961 Ladies Auxiliary give Community House to GIIA as it incorporates

1962 Ed Slomczeweski becomes mail carrier for island route. Grenellians can ride mailboat to and from Clayton on his twice a day mailruns.

1963 Wells on island are contaminated, not fit for drinking

1963 Ed Slomczewski become winter caretaker for Grenell

1964 GIIA create fire map and regulations

1967 “Grand Little Lady of Grenell,” Lois Kerr, miser her 1st summer on Grennel in 76 years, due to a fall. Dies later in season


1 cottage torn down between 1970 and 1980

1970 Era Annual Events include:

PUG Day (Pretty Up Grenell Day)

Auction and Rummage Sale with Bill Wood as auctioneer

“Know Your Neighbor” Cover Dish Supper

Community House Painting Bee

1970 Lois Kerr’s Tiffany windows are installed in the Grenell Island Chapel

1973 75th Anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel

1977 Bob McElfresh appointed Grenell Island Historian


1 Cottage built between 1980 and 1990

1981 No annual Dinner (or picnic) Due to lack of interest

1982 Store Closes at the end of season

1983 Grenell Island Post Office moves to Community House

1984 Grenell Island Library goes to the “honor system”

1984 Square Dance at Community House

1989 Save the River Septic Inspections


1 Cottage built between 1990 and 2000

1994 Community House underwent structural facelift: new foundation, new roof, siding

1994 Square Dance to recorded music

1995 Microburst causes week-long power outage

1996 Community House backdoor relocated

1998 100th Anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel

1998 Ice storm severely damages trees on the island


2003 First island regatta

2004 Wood floor refinished in community house

2005 Landscaping added to Community House

2006 Flagpole and perennial garden added

2006 Walking regatta added

2006 Reinstated annual auction—Gary McElfresh auctioneer

By Lynn McElfresh, Grenell Island

Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to TI Life, writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. We have learned a great deal over the past three years from Lynn McElfresh’s musings, from moving pianos to island weddings or from plumbing problems to meeting old friends, taking nature walks and the importance of trees.  Recently she presented several articles about Grenell for its 100th Birthday.   This month she concludes with this overall review. 

Posted in: History
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