Hathaway Boat Shop Hathaway Boat Shop

Address: 3 Hanmer Avenue

Old Address: 7 Algonquin Avenue

Other names: Hanmer Boat Shop

Year built: 1923

Other information: Christopher Woodward purchased the Hathaway Boat Shop from Carl Hathaway on January 17, 1991. Hathaway purchased the shop from Willard Hanmer in 1963, and carried on the tradition of guideboat building for 27 years. Woodward got his start in a North Country Community College guideboat building class in about 1986, and began working with Hathaway in February 1987. As the new shop owner he expects to continue the guideboat-building tradition. Hathaway will continue to work with Woodward as an independent contractor.

from Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 31, 1991


Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 3, 1983

Firemen save historic Hathaway boat shop

Lightning possible culprit in near-disastrous blaze

By PETER RACETTE

SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake firemen are being credited with saving a piece of area history today after containing an early morning fire in the Hathaway Boat Shop at the corner of Algonquin Avenue and Lake Street.

"There's no way in hell they could've saved it," said famed guideboat builder Carl Hathaway today as he surveyed damage to the shop. "I don't know how they did it, but it was a great piece of work by the firemen."

Firemen contained the blaze to a small area of the first floor and to a portion of the second floor loft. Hathaway said there were five boats in the shop at the time of the fire, but only two, a canoe and a guideboat on the second floor, were damaged in the blaze. Most of the tools in the shop, including some of the famed Hanmer guideboat builders' original tools, were saved.

"The boats on the second floor were scorched but I think I can repair them," Hathaway said."

Fire discovered at 3 a.m.

The fire was discovered at 3 a.m. by Oleta Marshall who lives next door to the shop. Her husband Edward phoned in the alarm, then notified Hathaway, who lives in Bartlett Carry. "Mrs. Marshall heard a noise," Hathaway explained. "She said she thought it was dogs in the garbage but she looked out and saw the shop was on fire. It was the flames she had heard."

As he drove into the village, Hathaway said he was hoping firemen would be able to save some sheds near the workshop, but assumed the shop itself would be a total loss.

"I've said to myself for years if this place ever goes up, it's gone," Hathaway said. "With the sawdust there is in here there'd be no way of saving it once it got a start. But the firemen did it."

Saranac Lake Fire Chief Donald Duso credited his men with a "fantastic" job in saving the shop. "There's no question the guys did a good job," Duso said. "They hit the fire hard and quick. They really deserve the praise on this."

Lightning blamed

The fire started in a corner of the first floor near a woodstove. Hathaway guesses the blaze was caused by a bolt of lightning which Lake Street neighbors say struck the area about 11 p.m. "I think the lightning came in through the wires," he said. "It caught in a pile of dust near the woodstove and smoldered until it finally just took off."

Hathaway said he was working in the shop on Monday until 5 p.m. "There'd been no fire in the stove since noon, so it couldn't have started there," he said. "Other than lightning I don't know what could've started it,"

Kim Duso, the chief's son and one of the first firemen on the scene, said the blaze was going strong when he arrived. "It was going pretty good," Duso said. "The windows hadn't broken yet, but if it had had a couple more minutes it would've taken off."

Donald Duso said the firemen set up the truck and hoses quickly, then ventilated the fire at the same time putting water on the blaze. "It's a fire-fighting technique to not ventilate the fire until you're ready to put water to it," the chief said. "It's a situation where if it had gotten air before we were ready with the water it would've just taken off,"

"Everything was well-coordinated right from the beginning and everything went right for us," Duso concluded.

Firemen remained on the scene until almost 6 a.m.

Shop has long history

The shop was built in 1923, as near as Bessie Hanmer can recollect. Hanmer is the daughter of one of Saranac Lake's original boat builders, Theodore Hanmer. She said this morning the Algonguin Street shop was built after World War I and replaced the original Hanmer shop at 77 Lake Street."My father and my older brother were in Gloucester repairing boats during the war. After they returned they helped my younger brother (Willard) build the new shop," she remembered.

Theodore retired from the shop around 1952, giving full control of the business to Willard.

Willard's craft, and the boat shop, are recorded in a film made by the Adirondack Museum shortly before his death. The film details the step-by-step process of guideboat building.

After Willard died in 1962 the art of guideboat building was thought to be lost. However, Hathaway, a former assistant in the shop, purchased the business from Willard's widow in 1965 and in 1967 turned out the first Saranac Lake guideboat since the younger Hanmer's death.

Hathaway is credited with the resurgence of guideboat building in the Adirondacks.

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