Jan 24, 2019
Henri L. Bastien (1831-1923) left his hometown near Montreal at the age of 18 and spent several years in the U.S. working as a ship’s carpenter. In the mid-1850s he settled in Hamilton and built houses for nearly a decade. Then, in 1865 he returned to boat building, taking over a boathouse on the bay at the foot of the Picton Street.
He completed a new boathouse in 1876 and established a large complex of buildings, including a two-storey factory, another shop for repair work, a livery boathouse, and some large storage sheds. Bastien was the largest of the boat builders in Hamilton, employing 20 full-time workers. In the early 1880s, Bastien’s factory was turning out more than 60 boats over the winter season.
Bastien manufactured a variety of small craft, including canoes, dinghies, rowboats, and sailboats. From the 1880s onward, the boatworks also produced launches and some cruisers, with steam, gasoline and even electric motors. During the summer season, Bastien also operated liveries in cottage country where people could rent his boats. These were located at the Port Carling locks, at the Royal Muskoka Hotel, and at the Sans Souci Hotel on Georgian Bay. Bastien’s business was very successful and continued until his death in 1923. The boatworks was demolished in 1937.
• Gerry Hatherly
Gerry Hatherley is a researcher and writer for the Archives at Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre. His main focus has been on the vintage boat builders of Muskoka. Gerry lives in Gravenhurst, ON, and has deep family roots in the region.
The series of articles and photos is nine at the moment but Gerry is working on another six or seven. Other articles include: