Old Town Canoe Consolidation Article

That article contains a number of inaccuracies including the price but it is correct that the Island Falls Canoe Company in Atkinson, Maine has now been contracted to make wooden canoes for Old Town. It is the end of an era in Old Town.

Big Business?

Ditto that WOW! At least Old Town wood canoes are still American Made. And by a first class builder.
I personally think it is a sad thing indeed. I was looking at a 1964 catalog, and thinking that they make so very little of the cool boats they used to, now they make none. While I realize that the tastes of the buying public have changed away from wooden boats, it is still an end of a chapter in American history.
It is sad and feels somewhat like the death of a very old relative who has been suffering in recent years. We should all probably have a good wake to celebrate 109 years of making wooden canoes in the same building on Middle Street in Old Town, Maine. Let me offer the pictures below as a tribute to the many wood workers who been a part of that tradition. The good news is that now there is a chance for a rebirth in the hands of someone who better understands both the history and the potential for the future.



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Thanks for posting the picture-tribute, Benson.

I've been trying to think a way of responding to the news about Old Town that makes sense... but the thought of hundreds of thousands of plastic boats hitting landfills some day has my mind reeling.

So, I've looked for inspirational quotes by other people, and here are a few:

“Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity.” Thor-Heyerdahl

(I assume the Johnson Company thinks of their move as "progress".)

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, "Annie"

(We have all been lucky that this great old company weathered-through, where all the others went by the wayside... and we are very fortunate to have had access to their records, and are grateful to those who preserved them.)

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” Kevin Arnold

(That one's for Benson.)

Happy Trails, Old Town Canoe Company!

The Old Town factory died long ago. This just makes it official.

I first visited the factory around 1965 or so. There were forms, canoes, people everywhere. The factory was buzzing with activity. There were mountains of wood chips, miles of cedar, experienced builders with hammer and brush in hand....what a cool place to visit. I had never seen any place like it.

My last visit in 2003 (?) was the worst. There was no factory access available. I visited the shop and left without seeing the factory... a first for me. On recent trips to Maine we by-passed Old Town, there was no need to visit a catalog store.

Between my first and last visits I saw the changes taking place. There were fewer forms, there were fewer canoes in process, the wood canoe area was relocated..the glass, kevlar, rubber canoes took over more space.

On my last factory visit there was only one canoe on a form, an Otca. There was no one working on it. For me, OT was dead at that point.

I remember a similar occurrence at White. On my first visit they were still making wooden canoes. On my next visit they were making some seriously ugly fiberglass canoes and the wooden forms were stored in a corner...

Interestingly the common thread is that the White forms ended up in the hands of skilled folks dedicated to the craft of making wood and canvas canoes. It seems appropriate that the OT forms will pass to the same skilled hands.

OT is dead, but OT canoes are not.

Let's give our best wishes to Island Falls Canoe Company.
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I was there a couple of years ago, and was given a tour of there wood canoe shop. It was down in the basement they still had all of the machinery. They had machines to make gunwales and a lot of ther other parts. There were about three men making canoes. I wonder what happened to the machinery and other supplies? they sure had a lot.
I wonder what happened to the machinery and other supplies? they sure had a lot.

Jerry had his pick of the machinery and supplies so he took eveything that he could use. He is planning to sell parts directly so you can contact him if you need something. I suspect that the bigger machinery is still there since it would not be easy to move.

My thoughts

I too lament the demise of wood canoe building at Old Town.

As far as the company itself goes they should be complimented, or perhaps past owners and managers should be complimented for having the ability, foresight and business acumen to make the transition from wood canoes to fiberglass and plastic. All of the other big firms, Chestnut comes to mind, could not or would not make the transition and closed altogether. They should be complimented further for continuing to build wood canoes, if for no other reason than tradition, when they obviously could not compete price wise with the small shops. We should all be so lucky to see our own businesses continue to grow, transition, and change with the times and last as long as Old Town has.

They have left us with a legacy we should be proud of. They produced great canoes and boats in great variety with excellent quality that provided recreational opportunities for millions of people.

It falls now upon us, the proud owners of Old Town canoes, to carry on their tradition of quality in the canoes we build or restore.

I wish the company well and thank them for the memories of all the times I spent in an Old Town.

Jim C.
Condolences to Benson, and congrates to Jerry, hope he stays busy.

As for the machinery, hopefully Jerry took as much as he could, the old stuff was well made and can last.

If there is any left, do you know what is to happen with it?
I suspect I know folks who would like to get it if possible.

I don't believe that a decision has been made yet about the factory or remaining contents. My guess is that there will be an auction at some point since there is clearly some value in the old machinery.

Great perspectives

Interesting posts in this thread. Sad for some! Commendations from others! A great history no matter how you look at it. I'm glad to have a piece of it. Also glad to have had the chance to visit up there many years ago and see the factory. As far as the old machines... lots of value there. As we are interested in these amazing old boats, there are a lot of people interested in the old machines. Check out http://www.owwm.com/home.aspx I think they use the same format for their forums as WCHA.

Time marches on. At least there is such a great effort put into preserving the past when it comes to wood canoes!