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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee & Vicinity
 
 

THE GRAND OLD STEAMER MOUNT WASHINGTON


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SAILING ON LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE


Reprinted from The Weirs Times Mount Washington Special Edition
Article by Bruce Heald

In 1872, we witnessed the launching of a new steam side-wheeler at Alton Bay which was christened the Mount Washington. She was longer, faster and the most beautiful side-wheeler ever built in the United States.

Following the tradition of using the names of New Hampshire's mountains, which had been established when Cocheco named its steamboat Chocorua, it was decided to give this new craft the name of the greatest of the White Mountains, Mt. Washington.

The contract was awarded to the famous shipbuilding and dry-dock firm of Smith and Townsand, of East Boston, Massachusetts. The big steamboat had a total cost of $62,000, and the directors must have felt that she was worth every cent, as there is no record of their voices being raised in financial anguish. When the Mount Washington was launched it had a length of 178 feet and a beam of 49 feet, 4 inches. These are actual hull measurements. Her low-pressure boiler was 33 feet long and her single-cylinder engine, with its 42-inch bore and stroke of 10 feet, was capable of developing 450 horsepower. Built by William Wright and Company of Newburgh, New York, her engine produced 24 rpm. Her usual steam pressures were low, being around 30-35 pounds.

She was a magnificent vessel. Perhaps the most majestic of all. The Boston and Maine Railroad surely got a lot for their money in those
days. She was indeed the most picturesque boat and possibly the most enchanting feature of the Winnipesaukee scene. The high place she held in the affections of all who knew her caused her to be described in superlatives.

The crew that served on her were intensely loyal, and among those with long records of service were Harry L. Wentworth, purser and captain;

Augustus Wiggins, Captain; Alonzo Leighton, chief engineer; Fred Leach, chief engineer; and John Mooney Lovett, pilot. The longest record of service of a female crew member was achieved by Mrs. Elizabeth Ferry, affectionately known as Lizzie. She was for many years matron in charge of the cuisine. The food on the Mount Washington was second to none. Tastefully cooked and ably served, it was an outstanding example of fine service offered to the traveling public.

Before the advent of prohibition, meals complete with wines and liqueurs were served in the cabin, and the fame of this floating dining room was comparable during the 1880's and '90's to Delmonico's in New York and Antoine's in New Orleans. It complemented the gracious living typified by the great summer residences of those two decades, and a summer trip to the Granite State was considered incomplete without a sail on the steamer Mt. Washington together with a delectable dinner.

When the prohibition era caused the bar to be closed, the custom of leisurely dining while afloat declined. Excellent food continued to be served, but the quickening tempo of life demanded faster service, so the tables were removed and a long double counter was installed. Food and supplies of the highest quality were provided by the dining car service of the Boston and Maine.

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