Building an Adirondack Guideboat- A visit to the Adirondack Museum’s Collection Center

While I was in the North Country this time I wanted to take some measurements off the sister ship of the one I am building.  This boat was donated to the Adirondack Museum by the King family some years ago.  To have a look at it I must go to the Museum’s Collection Study and Storage Center (CSSC).

The CSSC was opened in 2000.  Its purpose is to keep safe the Museum’s vast treasure of Adirondack cultural artifacts and allow researchers easy access to them.  The CSSC building is impressive with 400,000 square feet of climate controlled space.  To enter the building is a trip back in time.  It is like going into your Aunt Minnie’s attic; the collection includes just about every item that had some Adirondack historical or cultural basis.  There are collections of wood stoves, chain saws, church organs, beds from Dr. Trudeau’s sanatorium in Saranac lake, fire engines, and on and on.

I had a personal involvement with the CSSC during the time I spent as a full time resident of Long Lake.  Hallie Bond, then the curator of watercraft at the Museum, asked for assistance in moving the wooden boat collection to the new storage facility. At that time the boat collection was housed in a haphazard way.  Some of the boats were stashed in bins in the basement of the main building while others were barely protected from the weather in makeshift sheds across the road from the Museum’s main building.

So in early 2001, a gathering consisting of Hallie and several volunteers transported the boats down the hill to the CSSC where they were processed before moving them to their allotted storage location.  Key to all of this was that they must first pass through the watchful eye of the Museum’s conservator, Doreen.  Doreen’s job is to see that all the items in the Museum’s collection remain intact.  That means protecting them from mildew, rust, fungus, moths and any other thing of a destructive nature.

We ensured that all the the boats in the Museum’s collection at that time went through the conservator’s lab.  Here they were carefully cleaned and inspected and anything of special note recorded.  Then off the went to the Hall of Wooden Boats, as I call it.

The Hall of Wooden Boats
The Hall of Wooden Boats

For anyone that loves wooden boats this has to be a pilgrimage site.  Here you are surrounded by exquisite wooden boats of every description.  It is hard to walk down any of the isles because you can’t help stopping to examine this gem or that beauty.  It is truly an overwhelming experience for a lover of wooden boats!  You can go on a tour of the CSSC during the summer months.  Check with the visitor’s center to find out when they are running tours of the facility.

So Doreen gladly obliges my request to check out the Santanoni guideboat that Tom and Susan King donated to the Museum in 1972.  Here is a photo of Doreen preparing to move the boat out into the isle.

Adirondack Museum's conservator Doreen
Adirondack Museum’s conservator Doreen

What I here for is to measure the locations of the oar sockets, or straps, on this boat.  I have always felt that the the location of the straps in the forward rowing position doesn’t quite allow a full stroke of the oars.  So I will double check that.

We pull the boat out onto the isle.  She is a beauty, made entirely of Spanish cedar, just like my latest boat.

Guideboat built by Caleb Chase and used at Great Camp Santanoni
Guideboat built by Caleb Chase and used at Great Camp Santanoni

The view of the bow shows what a fine craftsman Chase was.   I really love that the deck has a crown to it.  It lends  sense of motion to the craft.

The bow of the Chase boat.
The bow of the Chase boat.

The stern shows, with little doubt, that Chase was its builder.  The aftermost rib has an “ear” on it to support the stern seat cleat.

Stern of Chase boat showing "ears" on the last rib that support the seat cleat.
Stern of Chase boat showing “ears” on the last rib that support the seat cleat.

My eye catches sight of another Chase boat.  It is the blue boat on the left in the first photo above.  It may be a very old boat built by Chase.  It is so old that apparently iron screws, rather than brass ones, were used in its construction.  Museum authorities believe it was built in the 1880’s for William West Durant and that it made the rounds of his Great Camps; Pine Knot, Uncas, Sagamore, Arbutus Lake and finally Eagle Nest. But they caution that it could have been one of four that Durant commissioned of Chase to go with the lodge he was building at Arbutus Lake in 1898.  I guess that if  one could verify its age, ie. by its having iron screws, then that would rule out the second hypothesis.

Here is a stern view of the Chase blue boat.  Chase often painted his boats blue, especially early on.  The aftermost rib here is a scribe half rib (it has no foot) and it has an ear to support the seat cleat.

Stern view of an early Chase boat.
Stern view of an early Chase boat.

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