1899 Elco Electric Launch

Wenona was built in 1899 and delivered to the F.R. Smith yard on Lake George where she was used to demonstrate the qualities of electric boats. The fact is the qualities of that Electric Motor are still gleaming today – Wenona is still running on her original motor.

In 1903 she was purchased by Bishop Stires, who owned a camp at Shelving Rock and who was a prominent figure in New York as well as on the lake. Wenona became a Lake George icon throughout the 20th century, as the favorite boat of the popular bishop, his son, and finally his grandson Ernie Stires, who finally sold the boat out of the family in 2006—but right back to her old stomping grounds.

This 1899 Elco Electric Motor is still running Wenona up and down the shores of Lake George.

The new owner of Wenona, who has just finished having her properly restored, is the new owner of the old Stires property at Shelving Rock. Wenona could run the length of the lake and back— 68 miles—on a single charge, running at around 6 knots. Her maximum speed was 12 knots, but of course she had far less range at that speed. Boats like Wenona get their speed from their length, and they’re easily-driven, narrow hulls use very little power to run at the stately speeds of her gilded age.

The Stires family kept the batteries topped up with a single cylinder generator that also provided the electricity for the camp. To store the boat for the winter, the old Edison batteries were removed, the acid decanted into glass jars and stored, and the lead plates set in the lake. In spring, the batteries were reassembled, and the boat had just enough charge to make it from the boathouse to the dock where she could be connected to the generator.

Now in its 15th edition, REFIT presents what its editors consider to be the most interesting, the most challenging and/or the most transformative refits and rebuilds of private yachts.

See Wenona’s story as told by Refit!