November / December 2022

The Restoration of ST. LOUIS

An 1896 electric launch
ST. LOUIS

KENT O. SMITH, JR.

ST. LOUIS, a 36’ Elco fantail electric launch from 1896, has been owned by the same family for 120 years. She has recently undergone a complete structural rebuild of her hull but is still propelled by her original motor.

ST. LOUIS is a 36' Elco fantail electric launch from 1896. She has her original motor, much of her brightwork is original oak, and she has been housed in the same sublime boathouse, and owned by the same family, since 1900. She’s a bit of a local legend in Bolton Landing, on the western shore of Lake George, New York. Over the past year and a half, she has undergone a complete structural rebuild of her hull.

She’s had this long life without having been coddled. Like many great camps in the Adirondack Mountains, the Bixby family estate is now held in a trust, with a few hundred descendants all claiming some small bit of ownership and identity with the old place. The family trust is called the Homeplace Corporation, which perhaps says it all about the family’s relationship with the buildings—and with the boat.

ST. LOUIS is a survivor. Many families lose their affection for low-speed boats as time goes on, but this one is an irrepressible beauty, even in contrast to her younger neighbor, the great EL LAGARTO, which was housed in a boathouse just up the bay. While EL LAGARTO was crashing across Lake George in the 1930s with her roaring Packard Gold Cup engine at over 70 miles per hour, the Bixby family still found pleasure in ST. LOUIS. Her open seating is designed for conversation, and her stem would slice through the clear water of Lake George, where the mountains seem to fall into the lake.

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