The Lake George Kayak Company has been awarded a Preservation Award by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) for its restoration of an 1880s boathouse on Green Island.
The boathouse now serves as the Lake George Kayak Company’s retail store, selling kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and boating-related gear. The restoration was completed in 2013.
According to Kate Ritter, AARCH’s program director, the awards are presented annually to those who have “undertaken sensitive restorations or rehabilitations and demonstrated long-term stewardship.”
The award was presented at an awards luncheon on September 29 in Inlet. The annual event is “a celebration of the work and care that individuals and organizations have put into a variety of historic resources throughout the Adirondack region.”
“When people say a building can’t be preserved, this demonstrates that it’s possible,” said Ike Wolgin, the owner of the Lake George Kayak Company. “It’s nice for everyone who was involved in protecting this interesting and unique building to see it recognized.”
According to Wolgin, the boathouse was built for John Boulton Simpson and his 80-ft steam yacht, Fanita.
Simpson was the New York City businessman who, along with four other investors, purchased Green Island and built the Sagamore Hotel in 1882. They also built cottages for themselves on the island, and spent the long summers entertaining themselves and one another with regattas, cruises, balls and informal parties.
According to Wolgin, Fanita was docked at Villa Nirvana, on the south shore of Green Island. But at the end of every season, she was hauled from the lake along a marine railway that extended into the boathouse and every spring, she was returned to the lake the same way.
F.R. Smith and Sons, the Bolton Landing marina, purchased the boathouse in the late 1920s, and for most of the decades that followed, it continued to be used to store and launch boats.
In recent years, though, it had fallen into disrepair; before the Lake George Kayak Company bought it two years ago, it looked as if it would collapse of its own weight if a developer didn’t knock it down first.
To save the boathouse, Wolgin recruited Bolton builder Dave McAvinney, with whom he’s worked on several construction projects, and architect Reuben Caldwell.
Everything that could be salvaged was salvaged, said Wolgin. The exterior siding, rather than being thrown away, was used to line the interior walls. Beams that were once used for ramps now support the uppermost level. Even the old tin roof was retained.
“We recycled, repurposed and reclaimed everything we could,” said Wolgin. “From an environmental perspective, the less you send to a landfill the better. And we sent very little.”
Wolgin said he appreciated AARCH’s efforts to promote the appreciation of the region’s varied vernacular architecture.
“There were certainly more styles than the rustic style, styles that were based on the availability of materials and the function of the buildings,” said Wolgin. “Utilitarian buildings such as boathouses were the work horses of the Adirondacks, and they’re easily lost. AARCH helps make certain that these buildings are better understood, so as to better preserve them.”