Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipeasukee & Vicinity
 
 

THE MS/MT WASHINGTON


Are you enjoying this article? Then get your own copy of the Weirs Times Special Edition MS Mt Washington!

3.00



Or perhaps
a beautiful print of the "Steamer Lady of the Lake"

$8.00


Return to Steamboats

Return to Main History

 

A HISTORY

 

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 the region.

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 him.

"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 the damage.

"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" on Winnipesaukee.

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 Region.

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 the engineer.
It was a gigantic undertaking, accomplished in a true Yankee fashion.

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 yesterday afternoon.

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 custom.

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 reality.
S. 5. Mount W Washington 11

Facts and Figures

  1. Built at Lakeport, New Hampshire in 1940 as a twin-screw steamship.
  2. Iron hull from the Steamer Chateaugay, Lake Chaplain, Vermont, originally built in 1888.
  3. Power plant from the Yacht Crescent I I I.
  4. Reconstruction by the General Ship and Engine Works, Fast Boston, Mass.
  5. Designed by (George A. Colley, N. A., resident engineers) John G. Alden, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts.
  6. Two 750 horsepower steam engines and boilers built by Herreshoff at Bristol, Rhode Island. Reconditioned by the Bethlehem Steel Company. Operated by oil burners.
  7. Length 205 feet.
  8. Beam 35 feet.
  9. Draft 7 feet.
  10. Tonnage 500.
  11. Inspected and licensed (by the Public Service Commission) under the laws of the State of New Hampshire.
  12. Classed by the American Bureau of Shipping.

It wasn't long after-the second "Mount" was in commission on the lake, when the following article appeared:

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 passengers.
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 fleet.
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 performed.
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 deck.
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 crew.

 
Home | About Us | Museum | News | History | Bingo | Shop | Membership | Contact | You Can Help!

The Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society is a non-profit organization.