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Wenona, The 1899 Elco Electric Motor is still running

By October 6, 2022September 22nd, 2023No Comments

Wenona was built in 1899 and delivered to the F.R. Smith yard on Lake George. Today, Wenona is still running on her original electric motor and demonstrates that quality is our tradition at Elco.

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.

Wenona, with her original Elco electric drive, runs the length of Lake George and back— 68 miles—on a single charge, running at around 6 knots. Her maximum speed is 12 knots. 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 are 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!


Wenona, a 32-foot launch built-in 1899 by Elco is still utilizing its original electric motor and controls. Green Machine, a 34-foot cruiser built by Elco in 1941 with gas power, now cruises with a new Elco electric propulsion system that has a service life of 50,000 hours!