In 1872 we saw the launching of a new steam sidewheeler
at Alton Bay which was christened the "Mount Washington."
She was longer, faster, and the most beautiful sidewheeler
ever built in the United States. A single piston with
a diameter of forty-two inches and a stroke of ten feet
drove this vessel at better than twenty miles an hour.
The piston drove these sidewheels by means of a walking-beam
on top of the super-structure. Picture the tall smokestack
belching smoke into the sky, and the walkingbeam compressing
up and down, up and down, to turn the giant paddle wheels.
The horsepower was 450 at full ahead, more than enough
to leave the "Lady of the Lake" in her wake.
The following article by Howard F. Greene's Winnipesaukee
Voyage states: Even thought the "Mount" outclassed
the "Lady of the Lake," their rivalry continued
unabated for eighteen more years. The captain and the
crew of the "Lady" pushed themselves even harder
in their efforts to regain some of their lost business,
until by 1890 the vessel ran three round trips a day from
June 4 until October 20. She began her day's work at 5:30
A.M., sailing from Wolfeboro to Long Island, Center Harbor,
Bear Island, and the Weirs. Arriving back at Wolfeboro
at 10:20 A.M., she sailed immediately on her second trip,
which-finished at 3 P.M. The third and last trip of the
day started at 3:30 and finished at 7:30 P.M. - a fourteen
hour day for captain and crew, not counting the time involved
in firing up in the morning and cleaning up at night.
Even with all the efforts of the great "Lady,"
she could not withstand the losing battle against the
"Mount Washington," and she made her last voyage
in September, 1893, after which she was destroyed by the
owner. The "Mount" was left alone and crowned
the Queen of the Lake.
During the days of the "Mount" and the "Lady,"
another type of steamer which was driven by a screw propeller
made its way into the lake. There was no question that
it was more efficient than the larger boats even thought
it could not compete with the big side-wheelers when at
full speed. The main purpose for these smaller craft was
for tourist business which was becoming very popular in
Launched five years after the "Mount Washington"
was the first screwdriven steamer, the "Mineola."
The launching took place at Lake Village where hundreds
gathered from all over New Hampshire to witness the christening
of this first screw-driven vessel that claimed she could
reach speeds of ten miles per hour. The skeptics could
not swallow this claim, for the screw propeller was still
unproven; on her maiden voyage she reached ten and one-half
miles an hour.
The most famous of the screw-propelled ships was the
"Maid of the Isles," built at Wolfeboro in 1877,
at a cost of $16,000.00. The natives have it that the
"Maid" won a race against the "Mount"
in one of the many races between the early steamers.
Old Harvey continues, "It was down Three Mile Island
heading in towards Center Harbor that the "Maid of
the Isles," near Becky's Garden, docked at Center
Harbor about a minute before the "Mount." Many
claim, however, that the "Mount" was ambushed
with the "Maid" carrying a full head of steam
while the "Mount" was just coasting at seventeen
knots. "Us old-timers still hold that if the ''Mount''
had her full steam, nobody could beat her. "
After many mishaps, the "Maid" saw the end
of her career at Center Harbor, when a group of Independence
Day pranksters set the old girl afire. This seemed to
be the turning point for all boating on the big lake,
for in 1893 the Concord and Montreal System ceased; the
"Lady of the Lake" made its last voyage, and
the Boston and Maine was faced with competition from the
automobile. Roads improved, more people were travelling
by auto, and the commercial value of the steamers began
to cease. By the end of World War I and the signing of
the Armistice, the steamers as commercial transportation
were on the downward trek.
The Boston and Maine officials finally decided to cease
operation of the "Old Mount and Steamship" business;
thus, during the 1920's, the "Mount Washington"
was sold to Captain Leander Lavallee.
Captain Lavallee just wouldn't give up the ship, so he
turned her into a passenger tourist vessel, and made for
himself a leisurely business of carrying summer vacationers
around the lake, and she continued in this capacity until
December 23, 1939. Millions of tourists from all over
the world rode the old sidewheeler, and hundreds snapped
pictures of the giant wheels and the walking-beam. For
67 years this old vessel made a legend for herself unsurpassed
by any other steamer on the lake, until that cold winter
day in December when an unexplained fire swept through
the train station and docks at the Weirs, and sent the
steamer "Mount Washington" to the bottom.
Many thought that this was the end of steamboating on
Lake Winnipesaukee and nothing would ever replace the
old sidewheeler. It was Captain Lavallee who firmly believed
that this was not the end. Thus he set out to travel all
over New England in search of another vessel which might
replace, in essence, the old "Mount." After
much searching, he came across an old sidewheeler named
the Chateaugay in Lake Champlain. Was this the boat that
might replace the "Mount"? Could the hull of
this fine vessel be moved over land to Winnipesaukee?
Could we bear the cost of transporting? Was there enough
Yankee ingenuity to make this a reality? These and many
more were the questions facing Captain Lavallee.
A refreshing story told us by Betsey Landick about Captain
Lavallee refers back to when he owned the old sidewheeler.
The cry, "Here comes the `Mount'," is a familiar
one at Winnipesaukee. When it rings down along the shore,
ladies leave their knitting on the porch, youngsters run
for the pier, bathers stop to watch her steaming by, and
canoes and speed boats swing 'round to catch her waves.
Her arrival and departure is an event which always livens
the daily scene.
Captain Lavallee has weathered cyclones, storms and panic
on Lake Winnipesaukee.
That made us pause. "Cyclones?" we asked. The
lake has always looked so calm.
He nodded. "It was when I was running passenger
service on the "Marshall Foch," he said. "That
was the boat I bought during the war and named after the
famous French marshal because my son was interpreter for
"Well, it was a lovely summer's afternoon. Everything
had been going along grand. We had about 40 aboard - all
Grangers from New Hampshire parts. Then, all of a sudden
it got dark. It was only about three in the afternoon,
but it got black in almost no time at all. Then the wind
came, and the rain.
"Well, Ma'm, you never saw anything like it in all
your life. The wind took those trees along the banks and
tore 'em out by the roots. Of course, we couldn't see
it then, it was too dark. But afterwards we could see
"It tore up half a million feet of timber and it
turned a 12-room house around end for end. But it didn't
harm a stick of the `Marshal Foch.'
"Weren't the passengers scared stiff?" "Only
one woman," he answered, "and she was scared
because it was dark!"
Besides owning these two boats, the "Mount"
and the "Marshal Foch" he also owned the "West
Wind," a freighter. It is interesting to note that
the "Foch" was one of the first U.S. mail boats
on the lake and delivered to many of the islands.
"I'm boat poor and boat crazy," said Lavallee.
His face, weathered from nearly sixty years of looking
out over Winnipeasukee, broke into a smile. He smiles
only occasionally, but that smile vas meant to say he
rather liked his particular form of insanity.
S. S. Mount Washington
Steamer Chateaugay stands victim to become new "Mount"
After the fire of '39, Lavallee begins his search for
a new vessel that might replace the old sidewheeler, "Mount
Washington," which serviced the lake for 67 years.
"To build a new one," Lavallee said, "would
cost in the vicinity of a quarter of a million dollars."
His search took him all over New England and the east
coast until finally he spotted the old sidewheeler Chateaugay
at Burlington, Vermont, on Lake Champlain. Here stood
the iron-hulled steamer, built in 1888, staunch as the
day she was launched. At. the time Lavallee looked her
over, she was being used as a club house by Burlington
Yacht Club. Gambling all on the faith that the one hundred
and fifty miles that separated the two lakes could be
overcome, the contract was signed to purchase the Chateaugay
for $20,000. Thus began the unsurmountable task of dismantling
the superstructure and transporting the hull to Lakeport,
N. H. The hull was the only part of the ship wanted for
the new "Mount." Now began the financial strain
of such a project. To this aim came the aid of several
interested New Hampshirites who believed in the project
and gave financial assistance to Captain Lavallee. Such
people included James R. Irwin of the Weirs who contacted
many others for their support. Finally the services of
John G. Alden, Inc., Boston, were secured for the construction
and design of the hull. Mr. Colley drew up the plans for
the new ship and the task of transporting the hull to
Lakeport. On April 3, 1940, they finally cut the hull
into twenty sections, loaded them upon flatcars, and carried
them overland to New Hampshire, where they began reassembling,
welding, and building the new superstructure. Captain
Lavallee insisted that propulsion be by steam engines.
This presented additional problems for engines of this
type were no longer manufactured. After much searching
an old steam yacht named the Crescent III was found in
the New York area and was bought to the tune of $25,000.
They installed the boilers, engines, propellers and shafts;
the launching date was coming to a reality. By this time,
the entire Lakes Region was feeling the pulse of excitement,
for the new "Mount" was going to be launched.
What appeared at one time to be the end of the" Mount
Washington" had become a believable item for the
Mr. Paul H. Blaisdell expresses the following in his
1940 published account of the S. S. Mount Washington:
Throughout the hectic days of construction the task would
have been hopeless without the enthusiastic cooperation
of many individuals and officers. Byron and Carl Hedblom
of the General Ship and Engine Works spared no effort
to speed the day of launching, and to them must go much
of the credit for the completion of the ship. The State
Public Service Commission met on short notice to clear
problems relating to its jurisdiction and keep things
moving. Three crews worked in 8-hour shifts, and at any
time of the day or night Captain Lavallee or James Irwin
might be seen at the shipyard, ironing out problems with
It was a gigantic undertaking, accomplished in a true
At the cost of approximately $150,000.00, New England
has the S. S. Mount Washington II. To speak of her as
New England's ship is done advisedly, for she takes the
place of a gallant craft which won the hearts of thousands.
She is looked upon as a part of New England rather than
as the exclusive child of New Hampshire. Truly she is
the pride of Winnipesaukee's fleet.
On August 12, 1940, at Lakeport, New Hampshire, we witnessed
the launching of the S. S. Mount Washington lI. Thousands
upon thousands of spectators gathered to watch the launching
of the new "Mount."
The following account was related by the Laconia Evening
Citizen on Monday, August 12th, relating the entire launching
ceremonies. By permission granted by its publisher, Mr.
Gallagher, we will relive that memorable day.
Launching of the steamer Mount Washington II was one
of those occasions which comes to a community but once
in a lifetime. Probably 20,000 saw the twinscrew, all
steel ship glide into the water of Lake Paugus at 1:03
To the boys of the town, the perfect fillip to the day
came when the boat, for which a six-inch clearance had
been expected under the Weirs bridge, had to stop, and
they were invited to jump on to provide ballast. It took
but a few minutes to get the necessary "ballast,"
the flags were put on again and then the boat received
a tumultuous welcome at the home dock at Weirs.
The boat entered the water at 1:03, was turned around
by the old "West Wind" belonging to the "Mount's"
skipper, Captain Lavallee, whose fifty-nine years on the
lake reached their climax yesterday. To lower her two
feet, the Lakeport fire pumper was engaged, and for two
and a half hours, water poured into the lower compartment
with Harold Tefft in charge. It will be pumped out and
the correct displacement will be taken care of by the
oil and the remainder of the boat equipment.
Shortly after five last night, when traffic was still
the heaviest that state troopers had ever seen, the boat
whistle blew twice, and the captain was taken on board
again by raft for the trip to the Weirs.
The contractors think that it will probably be two more
weeks before they return to Boston. Already the government
has been making inquiries regarding the services of the
architect, George Colley.
Welding was resumed at the Weirs as there were some parts
of the superstructure which could not be put on until
the boat went under the bridge.
The boat was christened by Dorothy Irwin, University
of New Hampshire freshman, and daughter of Vice President
and General Manager of Steamship Mount Washington Corporation,
James R. Irwin and Mrs. Irwin. Joseph W. Epply of Manchester
and Meredith Neck was master of ceremonies, introduced
by chairman Edward L. Lydiard. He called on Mayor Robinson
W. Smith, Director of the Steamship Corporation and Congressman
A. B. Jenks of Manchester who promised to introduce a
bill for the building of a navy yard at Lake Winnipesaukee.
Captain Lavallee spoke briefly of his appreciation of
the support given him, and cheers resounded as he ascended
the long ladder to the deck. The old men rejoiced when
the Captain used the old Yankee pronunciation of "engine."
His son, Rev. Andrew Lavallee of St. Anselm's, Manchester,
blessed the boat at the prow according to the formal naval
The boat sponsor was in a white national costume, and
42 young girls all in white and carrying flowers, one
representing each community in the Lakes Region, accompanied
her as ladies of the court.
Mr. Hedblom, of General Ship and Engine Works of East
Boston, contractor, supervised the details of launching.
Waters of Lake Paugus and later of Lake Winnipesaukee
at Weirs Bay were dotted by 500 private boats of all descriptions,
from canoes to handsome cabin cruisers, and ship bells
rang and whistles tooted as the boat started on its four
mile trip to its berth.
The boat was escorted by many pleasure craft to the Weirs.
Paul Blaisdell of Public Service Commission acted as a
marine traffic official throughout the day, and in the
lead of the boats was that of the commission transportation
director, Winslow Melvin.
Jim Irwin in his speech said that as usual he bras the
"clean-up man" and made graceful allusions to
those who had helped make the scheme of the boat which
had been referred to as "Crazy" a successful
S. 5. Mount W Washington 11
Facts and Figures
The New Mount Washington
Today we recognize the "Mount"
as a pleasure vessel and a landmark of Winnipesaukee providing
her passengers with the natural beauties of the lake and
mountains which make this region so famous.
Like the old sidewheeler, she makes daily
stops at Center Harbor, Wolfeboro, Alton Bay and Weirs
Beach, stopping only long enough to take on and discharge
At the conclusion of the second World
War we witnessed several marked changes in her motor power
and physical appearance. In the spring of 1946, under
the supervision of Douglas Brown and Carl Rossler of the
General Ship and Engine Works, and owners Carl and Byron
Hedblom, the vessel went under conversions namely: two
615 horsepower Enterprise diesel engines which added thirty
tons to its weight and one hundred tons of concrete for
ballast. In order to install these engines, two twenty-five
ton chainfalls were used to lower them into place; this
was quite a feat. All steam equipment was removed and
changed to electrical power including the steering plant
and propellers. For better visibility the wheelhouse was
moved from the second deck to the third.
In the summer of '46 the "Mount"
was inspected and licensed by the Public Service Commission
under the Laws of the State of New Hampshire and made
its first voyage during August of that year.
In the winter of '49, the Marine Railway
was constructed at Center Harbor for the purpose of replating
the hull, and replacing the old from the Chateaugay. Today
this railway is used each spring for general repair and
annual painting. This railway in itself was a vast engineering
undertaking for the general maintenance of the Winnipesaukee
Two years later the boat deck was removed
and a section of the new third deck was replaced and remodeled
for the purpose of carrying passengers, thus providing
better visibility of the region.
The "Mount" remained in its
present form until about 1974 when major refurbishing
and redecorating work began. Significant rebuilding as
well as routine preventive maintenance projects were also
Some of the renovations included: replacing
older style restrooms with all new floors, ceilings, walls
and fixtures, installation of new wide aluminum glass-sliding
windows for better visibility, allowing passengers to
sit at any location inside the ship and have an excellent
view of the passing scenery, relocation of our Purser's
Office and Gift Shop to make room for a new stage area
in the Main Salon.
Improvements to the interior of the ship include curtains
at the windows, wall-to-wall carpeting, mirrored walls
and attractive lighting to create a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
The Main Salon has new seating for added comfort, and
the color scheme creates a new dimension to the total
interior of the ship.
During 1982 our food service facilities
were expanded to create more working space. New refrigeration
has been installed, and additional food preparation areas
have been constructed both in the Cafeteria and below
For the enjoyment of its pasengers, this
vessel provides a 2 1/2hour cruise of beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee
under the capable direction of its Captain and experienced