Hall's Boat

Classic Wooden Boat Restoration & Building

There is a story behind every wooden boat. And those stories derive from those who built them and used them and where they used them. But, whether we're restoring a wooden boat, or building a new one, the crew at Hall's Boatworks is always mindful of the story and the sentimental attachments each wooden boat carries with it.

The Story of “Wenona”

An 1899 Elco Electric Launch

“Wenona” is a 32’ electric Elco launch. She was built in 1899 and delivered to the F. R. Smith yard on Lake George where she was used to demonstrate the qualities of electric boats. In 1903 she was purchased by Bishop Stires, who owned a camp at Shelving Rock and who was a prominent figure in New York as well as on the lake. “Wenona” became a Lake George icon throughout the 20th century, as the favorite boat of the popular bishop, his son, and finally his grandson Ernie Stires, who finally sold the boat out of the family in 2006—but right back to her old stomping grounds. The new owner of “Wenona,”who is having her properly restored, is the new owner of the old Stires property at Shelving Rock.

Quiet Performance on Lake George Throughout the Mid- 20th Century

“Wenona” could run the length of the lake and back—68 miles—on a single charge, running at around 6 knots. Her maximum speed was 12 knots, but of course she had far less range at that speed. Boats like “Wenona” get their speed from their length, and their easily-driven, narrow hulls use very little power to run at the stately speeds of her gilded age.

The Stires family kept the batteries topped up with a single cylinder generator that also provided the electricity for the camp. To store the boat for the winter, the old Edison batteries were removed, the acid decanted into glass jars and stored, and the lead plates set in the lake. In spring, the batteries were reassembled, and the boat had just enough charge to make it from the boathouse to the dock where she could be connected to the generator.

Restoration at Hall’s Boat

“Wenona” eventually found her way to the Lake Champlain region where she lived for many years and established many fans and followers before returning to her home waters of Lake George – and to the boatshop at Hall’s.

Restoration of “Wenona” was initially begun at another shop but brought to Hall’s, where the Hall’s Boatworks crew re-established a more traditional shape and lines. Over the years, she’d gotten badly out of shape and had been needing the hands of careful craftsmen.

While much of the fabric of “Wenona” is new, her original Elco electric motor remains. This engine is a fine example of the beauty and technological genius of the Elco Electric Launch Company.

About Elco

Elco, or the Electric Launch Company, was based out of Bayonne, New Jersey. The company started out by building electric launches for the 1894 Chicago World’s Fair where they were a huge hit. By 1900, however, Elco was also well-known for building high-speed gasoline launches. Through the 1920s and 30s, Elco was famous for its small cruisers, the Cruisette and Maronette, which were known as the Model T of boats because of the assembly-line building process at the factory, and their relatively low price. In WWII, Elco turned over to military production and built PT boats, and a new division called Electric Boat cranked out submarines. Today, the company lives on as General Dynamics, the submarine builder in Groton, Connecticut. But in the late 1970s, a new company arose with the old Elco name, building electric launches modeled after the original boats such as “Wenona.”

Today, Elco Motor Yachts is focused on advancing the electric drive, with the first fully integrated electric boat motor and drive system, available in AC or DC technology. Learn more about Elco at the Elco Motor Yachts website.

Wenona Gallery

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