Harveys Lake
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The Steamboat Era at Harvey's Lake


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The Steamboat Era

The Natoma was the largest of the steamboats to work on the Lake.

Chapter 2: THE BIG BOATS 1891-1905

The age of the large steamers began in 1891. That January William Bond began to build a large steamboat at the North Corner--the first to be built at the Lake. It was never named, but was generally known as “the Big Boat.” Bond would subsequently use a boathouse near the Hunlock home at Warden Place to headquarter his steamer business. He also had a boarding house and store at Warden Place near the later site of the Lakeside Inn. The Big Boat was seventy feet long and fifteen feet wide. Painted white and red, it was launched in June 1891. One news account reported that the boiler was inadequate for the boat's size and had to be replaced. On the trial trip Bond was in a rowboat admiring the structure of his creation, and in the excitement capsized but was rescued by a friend.

By the fall of 1892 it was evident that Harvey's Lake would become a major summer resort. Bond's Big Boat was well patronized and was now said to carry an exaggerated two hundred passengers. The Lake Grove House planned a major expansion to accommodate 150 guests, and a new iron bridge at the Inlet was planned to replace an old long wooden bridge that was in disrepair.

The success of the Lake as a resort and the novel steamboat trade attracted the interest of local businessmen. On November 14, 1892, the Lake Transit Company was formed to operate steamboats at Harvey's Lake. On January 10, 1893, George R. Wright took the New York Central train to Peekskill, New York, along the Hudson River, to meet W. R. Osborn, a builder of steamboats.

During the 1893 winter, Wright helped erect a huge crib on the ice in front of the Rhoads Hotel to prepare for a new steamboat to be built for the Lake Transit Co. The crib was finished on March 11. At seventy feet long and nine feet wide, the crib signaled that Big Boat would soon have a worthy rival. The next day Wright and Rhoads walked to Warden Place to view Bond's boat. They wanted to buy it to eliminate competition for the 1893 summer season, but Bond wanted $5,000.00--an exorbitant price for a two-year-old steamboat.

The following week, on March 17, machinery and material to build the new steamboat arrived at the Picnic Grounds on the railroad from Osborn's Company at Peekskill. At a March 23 Transit Company meeting the directors resolved to call their new steamer Rosalind.

On May 9, 1893, at 3:40 P.M., the Rosalind was launched with champagne into the Lake from the Picnic Grounds. On May 13 a special railroad car carried the owners, their families and friends to the Lake for a ceremony. The builder, W. R. Osborn, held the wheel for the maiden trip.

The Rosalind was sixty feet long with an eleven foot beam. With one and one-half foot guards, the overall width was fourteen feet. Built with white oak, hard pine and white cedar, the Rosalind had a pilot house on the forward deck with an eleven foot open cabin forward of the engine room. There was a thirteen foot enclosed cabin behind the engine room. The steamer had a three and one-half foot draft and carried seventy-five to one hundred passengers.

On March 27, 1895, Bond finally agreed to sell his boat for $3,500. By this time he had renamed it the A. H. Lewis, after the local lumber baron. Although Bond's price was still high, Wright persuaded the Transit Company directors that it was important to have a monopoly on steamer travel at the Lake. William Bond later took his small steamer, City Charter, to Lake Carey, although for a time he continued to run a store and boarding house at Warden Place. By 1896 the A. H. Lewis was rechristened as the Shawanese and would remain the largest steam boat at Harvey’s Lake for another four years.

On June 9, 1900, the Lake Transit Company launched the grand Natoma or “Queen of the Waters.” Christened with champagne by Miss Julia Raife, daughter of the company's general manager, Philip R. Raife, the Natoma had a length on deck of seventy-seven feet and an overall length of eighty feet. The beam was fifteen feet with a four foot draft. The vertical tubular boiler was five feet six inches in diameter and eight feet six inches high, and could supply 150 pounds of steam and eighty horsepower.

The Natoma was the only fully double-decked steamboat to run on Harvey's Lake. When crowded, it carried 350 passengers. While the other Lake steamers had a single lifeboat, the Natoma carried two. (All of the steamers carried canvas-covered cork life preservers.) The pilot house was on the upper deck and there were cabins in front and behind the boiler room on the main deck. It cost $3,000 to build.

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Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo

Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo