Former Old Town Canoe Shop

Bill Lovejoy

Curious about Wooden Canoes
The original Old Town Canoe Shop has been owned by the City of Old Town since the shop completed the relocation approximately a year ago. Attempts by the City to utilize the site and existing structures have not been successful to date. A redevelopment opportunity that involves remediating the site is actively being pursued and plans are in place to tear down the factory in the fall of 2012.

If anyone has an interest in site souvenirs such as bricks, lumber, etc please get in touch with either myself ( or David Wight at the City of Old Town ( The shop is essentially empty and nothing of material or scrap value remains.

With the right amount of coaxing, begging, pleading or bartering it may even be possible to have Benson (or some other member of the Gray family) autograph and/or authenticate the memorabilia.

Pictures of the shop as it sits today are attached.

Bill Lovejoy
Old Town City Councilor
WCHA #7538


  • IMG_4627.jpg
    122.3 KB · Views: 503
  • IMG_4629.jpg
    89.7 KB · Views: 490
  • IMG_4631.jpg
    109.3 KB · Views: 631


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
I am not really being critical here. I realize there are limitations on saving things, I know the cost of remediation intimately, and by the sounds of the thread it is too late already, but it just seems to me that a saving a historic building of this sort, with such a history woven into the fabric of Maine could be done with the right developer with the right idea. It just takes creative thinking, which costs nothing.

Many mills here in Mass are now housing and much of that affordable and appealing to communities for example.

It is a shame really.


It is a shame really.

I agree. I have a lifetime of memories of visits there. There is no other factory that ever produced as many canoes......
A visit to the Old Town factory was always one of the highlights of any trip to Maine.
A part of my lifetime fascination with canoes is the influence of those visits.
Watching the boats get built, painted, moved around is forever in my mind.
I lusted for those gorgeous canoes and I was thrilled if I could afford a second paddle and take home a catalog.
I remember being disappointed when they shifted the layout to make room for the glass forms. Every small change was noticed.
Each time I returned over the years there were fewer wood boats in queue and fewer of the old-timers building them. a few tons of bricks for the next auction..and some beams for a seriously big fire.

Greg Nolan

It is a pity that the Old Town factory is to be torn down. Without the canoe factory, Old Town would be just one more of many non-descript New England burgs on the banks of the countless streams and rivers of the North Woods, with no particular identity or claim to fame.

Green Bay without the Packers – Nashville without the Grand Ole Opry -- Muncie without the gear works – Ossining without Sing-Sing -- Capistrano without swallows – Tombstone without the OK Corral -- San Antonio without the Alamo –- these are all places that would be just wide spots on the road without their defining mark -- the building, team, bird, battle, or industry that gives unique identity to the place. Old Town, Maine would be just such a wide spot on the bank of a river if it had not been the home of Old Town Canoes and the old canoe factory.

Yes, yes – I know that there is a nice modern factory owned by Johnson Outdoors Watercraft, Inc. on the outskirts of town where plastic kayaks and canoes are molded and sold after having the Old Town name affixed, and where business seems to be prospering. But this new factory and the boats it makes do not give the town its place as a cultural landmark in the outdoors landscape of this country. It is the old factory building and the canoes built there that have created the link between the town and the canoe in the minds of all of us who know something of native Americans, voyageurs, fur trappers and traders, the birches and cedars and spruces of the North woods, and travelling on the waters of blustery lakes, rocky streams, and quiet rivers.

The old factory is a landmark of the psyche – more than just a well-known location that gives a traveler his bearings, but a metaphysical marker that helps ground us in our culture, connecting our present to our past, and giving us a mental and psychological bearing that helps each of us as we find our own place in time and history.

In tearing it down, we show again that we are a people who know the price of everything, but the value of very little.

Andre Cloutier

Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.
It is a real shame, I'm glad I made it there about 14 years ago. I said the same sort of thing when they tore down the remnants of the Ditchburn boatworks in Gravenhurst on the waterfront; they needed to tear it down to they could build a memorial to it. I wish i would have taken a brick or two, since they replaced it with some awful waterfront hotels and buildings. Actually i'll bet that a significant piece of the architecture would be a great auction item if signed and accompanied by something stating provenance. Wonder if there's a keystone or cornerstone that could be removed? Perhaps Benson would oblige us..
Bill Lovejoy

Bill Lovejoy

Curious about Wooden Canoes
The City of Old Town is open to ideas on re-utilization of the building and has examined all of those mentioned and more.

That being said its fate is nearly sealed and it will likely exist in photos and memories only by this time next year. I'm as nostalgic as anyone over the upcoming loss. From our porch on we look directly into the 3rd floor windows of the shop. Seeing the shop quiet and idle this time of year is 'odd' at best. In years past we'd shout messages back and forth with friends at work. At lunch I could wander down and get canvas or hardware for projects in the barn. The new shop is phasing out any legacy support material for the restoration folks. I recently went down for some brass hardware and came home with the last of the stock. I’m reasonably sure there will be a granite marker of some sort on the site as well as material in the Old Town Historical Society.

My personal plans are to pick up a load of bricks for a fire place overlooking the pond at camp. Maybe a piece of flooring for a shelf or mantle inside.

It may be possible to arrange one last small tour through the 'ghost of a shop'.
Again if anyone has suggestions or wishes please let me know.

chris pearson

Michigan Canoe Nut
Number all the bricks that contain the "Old Town Canoe Company" lettering. Then sell them to us canoe nuts. Then bring them all to an assembly and put them together!!!!!!

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
It may be possible to arrange one last small tour through the 'ghost of a shop'.
Again if anyone has suggestions or wishes please let me know.

I would be interested participating in (or willing to lead) a tour like that as well. My request to salvage a few items has already been sent separately to David and you. Let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help. Thanks,

Last edited:

Howard Caplan

Wooden Canoe Maniac
I grew up in Pittsburgh and spent a great deal of my youth at Forbes Field, watching my beloved Pirates play. In the early 70's, the University of Pittsburgh bought the old stadium and the City built Three Rivers Stadium across town. Three Rivers was a monstrosity but what they were building then for ballparks.

Meanwhile, the University allowed the left field brick wall, covered in ivy to stand as a tribute to Forbes Field. When in town I always make a pilgrimage to the wall that in 1960, Bill Mazorowski hit his famous, 7th game, bottom of the ninth, walk off home run for one of the most improbable World Series victories for the Pirates over the Yankees.

Why not attempt to get the City to erect some type of symbol of Old Town at the site as a reminder of the the history?

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
I haven't heard anything to indicate that it is gone but I've not been there in a few months. My brother still lives in Old Town and has just confirmed that the factory is still standing with no obvious changes.

Last edited:


Benson, if you agree to a tour, I will fly out from California just to follow your lead. Let me know.



LOVES Wooden Canoes
Sad sad sad.

Around these parts, developers knock down charming, family-oriented apple orchards and pumpkin farms as fast as possible. Why? To build houses for people who want to live in towns with charm and family-focused attractions. Nobody seems to realize their subdivision is sitting on the very spot where these things once stood.

I've never been to Old Town, Maine. But it sounds like it's shaping up to be a similar story: clear away the town's biggest icon of charm and history to make way for new businesses. Businesses the town will try to lure with stories of Old Town's charm and history.


Morris canoe fan
In Memoriam
I also think it's sad that town landmarks disappear. In this case, there doesn't seem to be much that can be done. The old factory sits very close to the heart of Old Town, Maine, and it's now an abandoned wooden and brick building. They are planning a modern office for the site. Times change. I think part of my sadness is that the wood-and-canvas business in that old factory declined and ended. As Ruth Gray said in the video, the new plastic boats built in the new factory on the edge of town don't have the same romance and craftsmanship.



  • Old Town factory.jpg
    Old Town factory.jpg
    55.8 KB · Views: 395