Monday, June 16, 2014

Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, NY

This was an interesting museum to tour, mainly for the chance to see the Boldt family’s houseboat, “La Duchesse.”


The boat was built in 1903 (making it 111 years old!) and measures 106 feet long, with a beam of 22 feet. It was built without an engine, and a tugboat “Queen” was used to move her. She was in the Boldt family until after George Boldt’s death in 1918. Edward J. Nobel, owner of the Beechnut Fruit Company and inventor of the Lifesaver candy, purchased Boldt’s estate, including the houseboat, but didn’t use her. In 1943 La Duchesse sank in her slip after a broken pipe allowed her hull to fill with water.

A few months later, Nobel agreed to sell the boat to Mr. & Mrs. Andrew McNally III (of Rand-McNally) for $100, with the agreement that they would remove the boat from the boathouse. A diver repaired the hole in the hull and the boat was towed to the nearby McNally estate on Wellesley Island.

The boat was under water so long, the interior wood on the lower deck was stained and had to be bleached. All of the plumbing and wiring had to be replaced. The McNally’s eventually replaced the wooden hull with a steel one.

La Duchesse was used full-time by the McNally’s for several years, and it was bequeathed by Andrew McNally to the Antique Boat Museum, with an endowment for her upkeep. It was brought to the museum in May 2005 and opened for guided tours two months later.

We began our tour by entering the stern (rear) of the boat as the front was under reconstruction. It is now furnished mostly as the McNally’s left her. Notice that maps are used for decoration in various places.

The kitchen has two stovetops, and a large refrigerator is on the opposite wall, plus another refrigerator in the staff dining room.


The formal dining room displays some items from the Boldt’s, including some china dishes and the brass fireplace.



The front hallway leads to guest rooms and suites, including a full bath on the right plus two Jack-and-Jill suites with bathrooms between, totaling six bedrooms and three bathrooms in the front part of the lower level.







The servants’ quarters in the rear of the lower level are smaller, but still nicely appointed. And they shared yet another full bathroom as well as their own dining room/lounge.



The master suite is on the upper deck, with lots of windows.








The piano belonged to the Boldt’s and was restored by the McNally’s. It sits in an alcove beneath a beautiful stained glass dome.



The large deck was called the “dancing deck” and also served as a perfect place for breakfast or afternoon tea.



Restoration work was in progress on the front stairway.



There are a lot more boats in several buildings of the museum, but my interest was primarily seeing this unique houseboat. Don and I also visited the River Rat Cheese shop, at the recommendation of our friend Marilyn Forbes.


In the display window, mice were roasting marshmallows. Wonder if they made s’mores?


We came home with some garlic cheese curds, horseradish cheese and onion cheddar. It was hard to choose from all the options in this interesting shop!

And we enjoyed some of the murals in this quaint town of Clayton.



Tomorrow we’ll cross the bridge into Canada to begin a dream tour of the maritime provinces with our good friends Susie & Denny Orr. Tonight we had dinner at O’Briens in Clayton, or OB’s as the locals call it.




  1. Have a great trip, a super group! :)

  2. The base of the table lamp is an antique store coffee grinder. Nice pictures; enjoyed reading about the houseboat.

  3. I knew you'd love the area. I remember the cheese curds and somehow we bought the garlic ones. Bill didn't like them and by the time I finished the bag of them, I'd had enough and don't want to do that again. Have fun and travel safely.

  4. Great pictures. You're going to love the maritimes. Also, time to update the states you have visited map on your right bar in the blog.


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