Sketch of Tarrytown Boat Works 35 foot cruising boat, from MotorBoating December 1909 issue.
Local History & Interest,  Vanished Sleepy Hollow

Tarrytown Boat Works

Tarrytown Boat Works was part of a vibrant Hudson River working waterfront during the early years of the 20th century. It was one of at least three boat builders on the Tarrytown waterfront over the years. While traces of any local boat builders are hard to find 100 years later, we dug deep into the archives to piece together this brief history of Tarrytown Boat Works. Sadly, we have been unable to track down any surviving watercraft from that era.

What we know for sure is that the business was incorporated in 1910. The annual report from the New York State Treasurer to the State Senate shows Tarrytown Boat Works paid tax on organization of a corporation in the last quarter of that year. It was apparently still in operation a decade later when The Rudder Marine Directory, a trade list of shipbuilding and marine industries, listed it as a going concern in its 1920 edition. After that year the business disappears from historic records.

Tarrytown Boat Works Cruisers

Advertisements in several consumer publications show that Tarrytown Boat Works built cabin cruisers for well-to-do clientele and smaller, faster runabouts for day use. They featured stock designs and also built to custom specifications.

A paid advertisement in the March 1912 issue of Yachting magazine described the operation:

“The Tarrytown Boat Works of Tarrytown, N.Y., builders of cruisers and runabouts in stock models and built-to-order boats, from 25 to 60 feet in length, have added two new boats to their line this year, a 35 and 40-foot bridge-deck cruisers. The Tarrytown standard of construction calls for white oak frames, cedar planking and copper fastening. Their cruisers have a speed of from 10 to 12 miles an hour and runabouts from 15 to 20 miles. Any type of motor will be installed at the option of the owner. The Tarrytown Boat Works guarantee first class material and workmanship. And up-to-date design, at as moderate a price as is consistent with good work.”

Yachting, March 1912.
An advertisement from Power Boating, January 1910.
Sketch of Tarrytown Boat Works 35 foot cruising boat, from Motor Boat January 10, 1911 issue.
Sketch of Tarrytown Boat Works 40 foot cruiser, from Motor Boat magazine’s January 10, 1911 issue.

Location of Tarrytown Boat Works

A full page advertisement in the March 1911 issue of Motor Boating magazine gave the address for Tarrytown Boat Works at 200 Main Street, one block from the New York Central Rail Road depot. That address is corroborated by an entry in Turner’s Hudson River Directory 1912-1913 edition. Main Street at that time ended at the Tarrytown-Nyack ferry dock on the west side of the rail road tracks where the trolley line from White Plains dropped off and picked up passengers.

The early 20th century waterfronts in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow looked very different from today’s public parks and high-end residential developments. It was a bustling commercial and manufacturing district, with multiple coal and lumberyards, a gas and oil terminal, and factories manufacturing rock drills, automobiles, wall paper, and underwear. On Josephine Street, a block north, the Holt-Lyon Company manufactured a variety of hand-powered kitchen appliances like cream whips and egg beaters, bread slicers, and mayonnaise mixers.

Below is a section of a 1914 map to Tarrytown’s waterfront by G.W. Bromley & Co. showing the former terminus of Main Street. Although Tarrytown Boat Works isn’t named, its location one block from the rail road station places it on the south side of the peninsula between the tracks and Odell Coal Yard.

The present shoreline differs greatly due to landfill. For a modern perspective, the Tarrytown Rod & Gun Club docks on the right are under the present tennis courts at the Tarrytown recreation center while the Standard Oil tanks at the intersection of Josephine Street and the railroad tracks have been replaced by the clubhouse for Hudson Harbor. After years of landfill, the Tarrytown Boat Works would likely have been located somewhere between today’s RiverMarket and the roundabout at the entrance to River Walk Park.

This 1914 map of Tarrytown's waterfront by G.W. Bromley & Co. shows the former location of Josephine Street. The present shoreline differs greatly due to landfill. On the right, the Tarrytown Rod & Gun Club docks are under the present tennis courts at the recreation center. The Standard Oil tanks at the intersection of Josephine and the railroad tracks have been replaced by the clubhouse for Hudson Harbor.
A portion of a 1914 map of Tarrytown’s waterfront by G.W. Bromley & Co.

Origin of Tarrytown Boat Works

Prior to Tarrytown Boat Works incorporating and setting up at 200 Main Street, John O. Brown built boats at and around same address for many years. The 1912 issue of Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts lists the two businesses separately, seeming to indicate that they were distinct entities even if they possibly shared space.

Advertisements in boating trade magazines of the early 1900s show a brisk business in new and used boat motors by a T. V. Roe. It seems likely the T. V. Roe property and dock were at least associated with the Tarrytown Boat Works, if not one and the same.

Townsend Veritas Roe

Who was T. V. Roe? In nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery there are two individuals bearing the name T. V. Roe. Both of whom, to paraphrase Kenneth Grahame, spent considerable time messing about in boats.

The Townsend Veritas Roe monument in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Townsend Veritas Roe was a well regarded dentist in Tarrytown, with an association with Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He was in dental practice with his wife Ermina, a graduate of Philadelphia Dental College and Garretson Hospital of Oral Surgery. Townsend was a member of the Tarrytown Yacht Club and was appointed harbormaster of Tarrytown by the governor of New York State.

The elder Roe’s affinity for boats occasionally made the newspapers. In a column of news from Tarrytown, the June 11, 1905 edition of the New-York Daily Tribune reported “Dr. Townsend V. Roe’s houseboat, the Nautilus, was discovered in a sinking condition about 3 a. M. Wednesday. Dr. Roe started a gang of men at work pumping her out, but it was no use and she sand to the bottom. The cause of her sinking is a mystery, and Dr. Roe has send for a wrecking crew to raise the boat.” A year later the boat was up for sale.

The younger T. V. Roe put Nautilus up for sale a year later. This ad ran in The Motor Boat, November 10 1906.

In the 1910 census Townsend Veritas Roe, Jr. is described as “expert, gas engines”.

Jim is superintendent of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where he has researched the cemetery’s history for more than 20 years. He draws on an extensive collection of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown historical resources for the material on Sleepy Hollow Country.

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