Reprinted from The Weirs Times
Mount Washington Special Edition
Article by Bruce Heald
In 1872, we witnessed the launching of a new steam side-wheeler
at Alton Bay which was christened the Mount Washington.
She was longer, faster and the most beautiful side-wheeler
ever built in the United States.
Following the tradition of using the names of New Hampshire's
mountains, which had been established when Cocheco named
its steamboat Chocorua, it was decided to give this new
craft the name of the greatest of the White Mountains, Mt.
The contract was awarded to the famous shipbuilding and
dry-dock firm of Smith and Townsand, of East Boston, Massachusetts.
The big steamboat had a total cost of $62,000, and the directors
must have felt that she was worth every cent, as there is
no record of their voices being raised in financial anguish.
When the Mount Washington was launched it had a length of
178 feet and a beam of 49 feet, 4 inches. These are actual
hull measurements. Her low-pressure boiler was 33 feet long
and her single-cylinder engine, with its 42-inch bore and
stroke of 10 feet, was capable of developing 450 horsepower.
Built by William Wright and Company of Newburgh, New York,
her engine produced 24 rpm. Her usual steam pressures were
low, being around 30-35 pounds.
She was a magnificent vessel. Perhaps the most majestic
of all. The Boston and Maine Railroad surely got a lot for
their money in those
days. She was indeed the most picturesque boat and possibly
the most enchanting feature of the Winnipesaukee scene.
The high place she held in the affections of all who knew
her caused her to be described in superlatives.
The crew that served on her were intensely loyal, and among
those with long records of service were Harry L. Wentworth,
purser and captain;
Augustus Wiggins, Captain; Alonzo Leighton, chief engineer;
Fred Leach, chief engineer; and John Mooney Lovett, pilot.
The longest record of service of a female crew member was
achieved by Mrs. Elizabeth Ferry, affectionately known as
Lizzie. She was for many years matron in charge of the cuisine.
The food on the Mount Washington was second to none. Tastefully
cooked and ably served, it was an outstanding example of
fine service offered to the traveling public.
Before the advent of prohibition, meals complete with wines
and liqueurs were served in the cabin, and the fame of this
floating dining room was comparable during the 1880's and
'90's to Delmonico's in New York and Antoine's in New Orleans.
It complemented the gracious living typified by the great
summer residences of those two decades, and a summer trip
to the Granite State was considered incomplete without a
sail on the steamer Mt. Washington together with a delectable
When the prohibition era caused the bar to be closed, the
custom of leisurely dining while afloat declined. Excellent
food continued to be served, but the quickening tempo of
life demanded faster service, so the tables were removed
and a long double counter was installed. Food and supplies
of the highest quality were provided by the dining car service
of the Boston and Maine.