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Ina Island’s Past

I am sharing this brochure and photographs of Ina Island, located in the Summerland Group of Islands, near Alexandria Bay. I found the brochure while cleaning out my father’s home in Syracuse, NY. Of course, this brings back many childhood memories, and I hope this will help record some of Ina Island’s proud history.

The island was recorded in “Thousand Islands Life” before. Back in June 2010, photographs of the dilapidated Ina Island boathouse were shown when many were upset about its state of collapse.

Soon after finding the brochure, I contacted Lyn Pisarek, Ted Pisarek Jr. and Jack Smorol and even though some of the facts may be “fuzzy,” I am pleased to put some pieces together.

In 1963, my father, Leonard Jacob Smorol and two friends, Theodore Pisarek and Kenny Santy, bought the island. I was told by Ted Pisarek Jr. that they purchased the island, so they had somewhere to haul-out their boats in the fall and store them for the winter.

They ran the island as a hotel, open to the public, for two or perhaps a few more years. Then five or six years later Leonard and Teddy bought out the Santy share of the ownership.

After the hotel’s time ended the island was occupied by the Smorol and Pisarek families who also rented rooms, dockage space and winter storage space to friends and families who paid a nominal fee to cover the costs (rent, insurance, taxes, power, etc.) In the early days, there was a diesel generator located on the back of the island facing Summerland Island.

My siblings Jack, Sara, Jason and myself spent every Summer on Ina Island with my mother, Pauline, until I was 18 in 1980. We would drive up from our home in Syracuse, most weekends after the ice melted - a few times, I can remember arriving when there was some ice in the River; we would stay until late October before the ice came back!

We would also be there continuously from the day school got out in June until the Monday after Labor Day when we went back to school in Syracuse in the fall. On the weekends, the other families would join us. There would be Teddy & Gwenny Pisarek, Teddy Jr, Lyn Pisarek / Komuda and John Komuda and occasionally Reggie, and Louie Wisinski and their family. Bob Sposato and family, Billy Leonard and family, Bill Barns and family, John Butz and family were all regulars, for many years.

There were others who came up for a few years or sporadically including: Walt Kondziela, Billy Hillick, Tom Pasqua, John Young, Dick (on the dock) Spagnolla, Peter Santy and family. On any given weekend there would from 20 to over 40 people staying on the island.

All those who stayed there were like family to me, everyone contributed to the upkeep of the island in the Spring, Summer and Fall. The residents and guests took care of most of the repairs and new construction. It was taken for granted that “someone there had a background in whatever was needed.”

I can only remember calling in professionals for refrigeration work (apparently no one knew anyone in that business) and considering we had a large 3-door commercial refrigerator, a 2-door commercial freezer and a commercial ice maker – these professionals were important.

One of the many construction projects I remember well was the necessity of working on the famous Ina Island boathouse. It took a lot of maintenance to keep it in shape.

Other memories: there used to be a Bar Room where we gathered most nights, it was the focal point (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be tables on the front porch with an excellent view of the Seaway where we gathered for dinners (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be a pool table in the library which was very popular (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be a ping pong table on the side porch (the new owners changed it into a sitting room).

We repaired the tennis court and put up fencing in the early 70s (to keep the balls out of the water) and just about everyone took up tennis. Swimming off the front seawall was also very popular, I can remember on many mornings seeing my father out soaping himself up and diving off the seawall to rinse off.

There were always people there every weekend in the spring and fall and continually throughout the summer. Ina Island has brought fond lasting memories to the hundreds of residents and guests that were there during our ownership.

There was another 2-story boathouse in the lagoon, to the right of the main boathouse, which had two slips and some bedrooms upstairs. At the time, it was not financially feasible to repair it, and it was taken down in the mid-'60s and burned in a pit on the island (there were no laws about that kind of action, back then).

Then we all contributed to building what we called "the Polish Dock" in its place. Made out of rough-cut lumber (which meant a lot of splinters in our bare feet) supplied by the Ted Pisarek’s relative, Ed Storchurski, from Pulaski and it was there for several years after we left.

My father and Ted sold Ina in 1983.

As Island properties are bought and sold, I am reminded of what I read in “TI Life,” written by the magazine’s creator the late Paul Malo:

“What role can we play?  Individuals tend to bristle when told what they can and cannot do with their own homes.”  It is my hope that by continuing to publish the history of people and places of the Thousand Islands, on both sides of the border, we will all remain passionate about our surroundings and have a strong appreciation of place.”

By Joseph Smorol

Joe Smorol hails from Syracuse NY and spent summers on Ina Island and working on Cherry Island for Amsterdam family from age 12-18 cutting lawns, cleaning boats and “doing whatever else was needed.”  After two years in college he worked 14 years in the construction business followed by 13 years in the hospitality industry. Today he is involved in rental properties.  Joe relates that many of the original visitors to Ina Island became permanent residents of the region and he is hoping this article will bring back fond memories for all.

Editor’s Note:  Both Joe and I apologize for miss-spelling names and thank those who quickly corrected them!


Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Jim Walters
Comment by: Jim Walters
Left at: 8:36 PM Sunday, February 14, 2016
I enjoyed reading the article! I worked on sport island from 1979 to 1982 also doing "whatever needed to be done". I'm still blessed to be able to spend my weekends each summer on the river and pass by Ina frequently.
Glory Parker Martel
Comment by: Glory Parker Martel
Left at: 10:53 AM Monday, February 15, 2016
I was born and raised in Alexandria Bay until I was 23. I am now nearing 80 years old. When I was 12.... I babysat a very young boy for two summers.....whose parents owned Ina Island. This would be in 1948-49. We were not allowed in the main house. I watched the boy in a boathouse of some sort with a dock attached, of course. It was a comfortable boat house with a small bathroom, bedroom, etc. It was a must that I polish his white shoes daily plus he had an afternoon nap. Our lunch was brought to us from the main house. I remember at 12 years of age, it was a huge responsibility on my part to have my eye on that small boy every minute for fear he would fall in the river. My older sister was a chambermaid at Ina Island at this time. We would meet the boat at the Alex. Bay dock to get to Ina Island. I cannot recall the name of the driver and his wife taught school in Alexandria Bay. He was a very nice man I recall. This certainly brought back memories of years past. Great article!!! G. Martel
Sandy Kay (Santy) Wells
Comment by: Sandy Kay (Santy) Wells
Left at: 11:20 AM Monday, February 15, 2016
Hi Joe. I can fill in a lot of the gaps at Ina from the time before you were born if you're interested. I remember a lot because it was an incredible place and even though I was young - Dad, Teddy and Jake bought Ina when I was 9, I don't think I've forgotten anything. It was run as a hotel and restaurant for only 1 year. My grandmother, Gwen Pisarek's mother and all our cousins and friends worked in the kitchen, waiting tables, and running the Monitor back and forth to the Bay to pick up guests. Then of course, there was always maintenance, lawn mowing, etc. to be done. I was told a lot of the history of the island by my father and those stories are quite something. I suppose I should write an article about it some day since there seems to always be so much interest in Ina.
Joe Smorol
Comment by: Joe Smorol
Left at: 2:16 PM Monday, February 15, 2016
Sandy Wells I am very interested in info please contact me
Jill Isaacs
Comment by: Jill Isaacs
Left at: 1:59 PM Tuesday, February 16, 2016
My late husbands family ran the hotel,the Isaacs Family. When he was alive we would often go to the island,and he would tell me stories and history of the island.
Mary Ferber (Crawford)
Comment by: Mary Ferber (Crawford)
Left at: 10:19 AM Thursday, February 18, 2016
Thank you for sharing your memories and stories of Ina Island. It is wonderful to hear how Ina has touched so many people and was your home to gather with friends and family for summer fun.
Sara Elaine Young
Comment by: Sara Elaine Young
Left at: 11:05 AM Saturday, September 24, 2016
I have such fond memories of In Island. My father, John Young, was good friends with the Pisero and Smoral families. We spent most weekends their in the summer. I remember fishing, swimming, the big family style dinners, etc. Great memories for my family!
Keith Kenner
Comment by: Keith Kenner
Left at: 7:50 PM Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I to have very fond memories of Ina grandmother was Maude Aldoroty listed on the card as part of the Joe Smorol article
My grandparents owned Ina Island from 1949-1959 until it was sold
to the head of the Canadian Division of Reader's Digest...It was run
as a hotel fro those 10 yrs....the name of the indivual that ran ten boats
and was the caretaker for the Island for all those years was Bud Bell
Had many fond memories during those years as a 65 yrs
old and living in Florida...would appreciate if anyone with stories regarding Ina Island could contact me Keith Kenner 954.263.2608
Amy Lowe
Comment by: Amy Lowe
Left at: 2:16 PM Saturday, April 28, 2018
My dad worked as a chef in the restaurant around 1959. Does anyone have any information about the restaurant during that time or the chefs? He brought me back a post card like the one in this article and I still have it.
Keith Kenner
Comment by: Keith Kenner
Left at: 10:51 PM Saturday, May 12, 2018
Amy Lowe......pls call Keith Kenner regarding Ina Island
Amy Lowe
Comment by: Amy Lowe
Left at: 11:25 PM Saturday, August 25, 2018
I am sorry I didn't see this post with your number and comment to call Keith Kenner. I will call tomorrow and hope I can reach Keith.