Ticonderoga

The steamboat Ticonderoga is America’s last remaining side-paddle-wheel passenger steamer with a vertical beam engine of the type that provided freight and passenger service on America’s lakes and rivers from the early 19th to the mid-20th centuries. Commissioned by the Champlain Transportation Company, the Ticonderoga was built in 1906 at the Shelburne Shipyard in Shelburne, Vermont on Lake Champlain.

The Ti measures 220 feet in length and 59 feet in beam, with a displacement of 892 tons. Her steam-powered engine, handmade by the Fletcher Engine Company of Hoboken, New Jersey, was powered by two coal-fired boilers and could achieve a maximum speed of seventeen miles per hour.

History

The ship's crew numbered twenty-eight, including the captain, pilots, mate, deckhands, engineers, and firemen to operate the boat. The purser, stewardess, freight clerk, bartender hall boys, cook, waiters, scullion, and mess boys attended to passengers and freight arrangements.

Initially, the Ticonderoga served a north-south route on Lake Champlain. Daily, she docked at Westport, New York, where she met the New York City evening train. The next morning she carried travelers and freight northward to St. Albans, Vermont. In addition to passengers, the Ti transported local farm produce, livestock, and dry goods on a regular basis, and during both world wars ferried U.S. troops between Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont. Over the years she also operated on the east-west run from Burlington to Port Kent, New York and had a brief career as a floating casino.

When more modern ferries made her obsolete, the Ti managed to persist in operation as an excursion boat for several years; however, by 1950 the steady decline in business threatened the boat’s future. Ralph Nading Hill saved the Ti from the scrap heap when he persuaded Electra Havemeyer Webb to buy her for her growing Museum. While the Shelburne Museum attempted to keep her in operation, the steamboat era had passed making it difficult to find qualified personnel to operate and maintain the aging vessel.

Relocation

In 1954 the Museum decided to move the Ti overland to the Museum grounds. At the end of the summer season the boat paddled into a newly dug, water-filled basin off Shelburne Bay and floated over a railroad carriage resting on specially laid tracks. The water was then pumped out of the basin, and the Ti settled onto the railroad carriage. During the winter of 1955 the Ti was hauled across highways, over a swamp, through woods and fields, and across the tracks of the Rutland Railway to reach her permanent mooring on the Shelburne Museum grounds.

Much of the boat’s interior was restored to its original grandeur. The dining room and stateroom halls retain their butternut and cherry paneling and ceilings their gold stenciling. The barbershop, Captain’s quarters, dining room, and promenade deck contain furniture and accessories used in the Ticonderoga and other Lake Champlain steamboats.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964 under the name TICONDEROGA (Side-paddle-wheel Lakeboat).

Furniture

Shelburne Museum’s furniture collection represents the different styles and tastes of 18th and 19th century America. It includes examples of the most sophisticated urban furniture produced in the nation as well as many simpler pieces made by country cabinetmakers for use in rural homes. These country pieces include one of the greatest strengths of the Museum – its collection of paint-decorated furniture.

During the American industrial revolution (ca. 1865-1900) the furniture industry, like every other major industry, was mechanized. Individual craftspeople and designers like Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose work can be seen in the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building continued to work for upper class patrons, but inexpensive, factory-made chairs, tables, beds, and stands flooded an eager market of middle-class Victorians. The popularity of carved decoration and elaborate upholstery, characteristic of the period, can be seen on the furniture displayed in the parlor of the Lighthouse (see Colchester Reef Light) and on the promenade deck of the Ticonderoga.

Building Activity