1954 Peterborough rowboat


I restored this 1954 Peterborough strip-planked rowboat for my wife's family. The boat was built by the Peterborough Canoe Company in Peterborough, Ontario. It is the 16-foot Burleigh (Model #1418) and a decal on the foredeck identifies it as the 75th Anniversary Edition, which cost $220 when new. Although Peterborough had a long history making a wide selection of finely built wooden boats, the company exaggerated a bit when celebrating it's 75th birthday. Peterborough was founded as an amalgamation of several other boat building firms and the Peterborough name actually started in 1892. The company dated its origins from one of those smaller firms, which had been founded in 1879.

The small motorboats, rowboats and canoes that Peterborough built by the thousands were enormously popular in the vast land of lakes of Ontario and Quebec. The area north of Toronto, including the Muskoka Lakes, is known today as "cottage country" and many of these boats can still be found in this region, used for recreation and travel to the cottages, many of which are only accessible by water.

Peterborough probably built its finest boats between 1900-1925, at a time when outdoor recreation was just beginning to boom and small gasoline engines were transforming boats and boat designs. Although the vast majority of Peterborough's boats were built using red cedar strip-planking, in the 1920's the company produced a line of mahogany inboard runabouts. The company developed an assembly line production process for its boats, and at the company's height, just after World War Two, they employed about 200 workers.

Although the end of the War meant a return to peacetime pursuits such as recreation, wartime developments of new materials quickly threatened wooden boat building. Aluminum, plywood and fiberglass rapidly took over the market and just seven years after this boat was produced, the Peterborough Canoe Company closed its doors. Today the factory houses the Canadian Canoe Museum (http://www.canoemuseum.ca/).

I replaced the white oak keel and stems of this boat, as well as the butternut decks, white oak coamings and mahogany details. I had to scarf in a small piece of red cedar to repair a hole in the hull. Some of the half-round elm frames also needed replacement. I scarfed a new handle on one of the spruce oars, which feature a graceful spoon shape, but I realized later that the oar pattern fit neatly in a construction 2-by-6. The most time consuming part of the restoration was revarnishing the entire boat inside and out. She rows beautifully with one or two people, and can easily carry four adults. She is just a little bit heavy for cartopping, but two strong people could transport her that way. Anyone interested in a replica of this boat should contact me. Fully restored originals are worth about $5,000 today, and a replica, while costing a bit more, would give its owner the same decades of use that these originals have given their owners.



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