Built on a pier jutting into Lake Champlain in Essex, NY across Lake Shore Road from Rosslyn stands a charming dock house constructed in 1898 (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 30). Rosslyn boathouse is modeled on a late 19th century Eastlake Design, considered part of the Queen Anne style of Victorian architecture (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 118).
Popular boat races and regattas took place on the Essex waterfront drawing competitors and spectators to the Rosslyn boathouse and shoreline from near and far. While boating regattas have dwindled in the last half century, Rosslyn boathouse remains a spectacular spot for viewing the Essex fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Although Rosslyn boathouse is part of the original W.D. Ross family property, it was not constructed by or for the Ross family. The turn-of-the century building was most likely designed and built for the Keyser family to accommodate their 62 ft. long, steam-powered yacht, Kestrel. Constructed entirely of mahogany, the yacht plied Lake Champlain’s water the 1890’s through the 1930’s, becoming as much an iconic vessel in Essex history as the boathouse has become in the century since it first adorned Merchant Row.
Although the Keysers may have initially kept their yacht on their own waterfront north of Essex, their dock and/or boathouse was rendered unusable by ice or flood damage. Kestrel required local dockage for convenient access and an ample supply of coal to power the steam engine, so the Keyser family purchased a small piece of land on the lake from the Ross family and proceeded to build a dock, boathouse, and coal storage bin for the yacht. The Keyser boathouse has persevered through many floods and ice flows, and today it is once again part of the Rosslyn property. (The Kestrel: An Essex Icon by Morris F. Glen)
Rosslyn Boathouse vs. 2011 Flooding
The Champlain Valley endured history-breaking floods in 2011. Many lakeside properties were damaged, including the Rosslyn boathouse which experienced flood waters two feet above the floor for almost two months. Rosslyn’s beach, stone retaining walls, landscaping and many of the trees were severely impacted, but the boathouse was spared.
“Rosslyn’s boathouse… is a part of the historic architectural heritage of Essex, NY. History can not be rebuilt. It can [only] be replaced with a facsimile… [But if Rosslyn’s boathouse] were dismantled beyond repair, it is very likely that we would not be granted permission to rebuild it.” (Rosslyn Redux)
Repairs to the boathouse are now complete and the waterfront renovations are ongoing. Read more about the boathouse trials and victories on the Rosslyn Redux blog!
Additional Resources for the Rosslyn Boathouse
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate the Rosslyn Boathouse and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in the historic district.
View Discover Essex on Lake Champlain in a larger map
References for the Rosslyn Boathouse
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
“Essex Village Historic District.” Living Places. Ed. Julia Gombach. The Gombach Group, 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .
Everest, Allan Seymour. Our North Country Heritage; Architecture Worth Saving in Clinton and Essex Counties. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra, 1972. Print.
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
McNulty, George F., and Margaret Scheinin. Essex; the Architectural Heritage. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1971. Print.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.