William P. Dow, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, died September 13th at the age of 86 at his home in Lake George.
“Bill Dow’s entire life was dedicated to his family, his employees, and his boats. His loyalty to Lake George Village and his love of Lake George was matched only by his generosity and kindness towards others,” said Mayor Bob Blais, a close friend of many decades.
“We communicated almost daily about Village and national problems, often through hand-written notes,” said Blais. “He was one of our community’s greatest supporters.”
Dow became president of the Lake George Steamboat Company in 1991, after the death of his father, Wilbur Dow, an admiralty lawyer, explorer and yachtsman who purchased the company in 1945.
The company, which was founded in 1817, was nearly brought to an end by the Great Depression and World War II. But Wilbur Dow obviously believed that steamboats still had a role to play on Lake George.
“My father bought the company because he loved marine transportation. We’ve done everything we can to add to what he accomplished and to keep the company going,” Bill Dow told the Lake George Mirror during the company’s bicentennial celebrations in 2017.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College and US Navy veteran who earned an MBA from Stanford, Dow returned to Lake George in 1964 and made it his permanent home.
In addition to assisting his father with the management and strategic expansion of the Lake George Steamboat Company, Dow engaged in a wide variety of ventures, from retrieving old growth timber from the lake bottom and operating a one-man research submarine to opening the Station, a beer garden and nightclub in the former Delaware and Hudson Railroad Station.
“Even as a young man, Bill just worked very, very hard,” said Lonnie Lawrence, who worked at the Station and on the tour boats as a college student in the mid-1960s.
“He would only relax after the boats had been put to bed and the Station was closed for the night.”
According to Dow’s family, Bill Dow was responsible for “overseeing the construction of some of the finest excursion vessels in the country.”
In 1966, he completed the conversion of the superstructure of the Mohican, the company’s 1908 steamboat, from wood to steel.
The Minne-Ha-Ha, the lake’s only paddlewheel steamer, was launched in 1969.
The Lac du Saint Sacrement, the lake’s largest cruise boat whose lines evoke the sleek Hudson River steamboats of the 19th century, was commissioned in 1989.
In 1973, Bill Dow founded the New Orleans Steamboat Company and began construction of the first of its several river boats.
Among his contributions to his Lake George neighbors was the construction of a barge that served as a platform for the Village’s weekly fireworks shows, which he took an active interest in.
“For fifteen years straight, every summer from 2003 through August 2022, he tirelessly went out each week to light up the night with beautiful fireworks,” his family stated.
An avid historian, Dow’s last ventures included the writing and research required to secure places on the National Register of Historic Places for the Mohican, the D&H train station and the Lake George Steamboat Company’s marine railway at the foot of the lake in Ticonderoga.
“Bill Dow was very proud of the fact that the Lake George Steamboat Company is one of the oldest, continuously operating passenger-carrying services in the world. He had a strong passion for creating, building, and bringing beauty into the world. He also loved history, reading, the founding fathers, America, golfing with friends, and refreshing libations after a day of ‘striking a blow for Liberty,’” the family stated.
Bill Dow is survived by his wife Patricia, his children Rebecca, Luke, Bizzie and Bubba, his granddaughter, Adelyn, his sister Lee Dow and his first wife, Susan Huxtable.
A celebration of Dow’s life was held aboard the Lac du St. Sacrement on September 22nd.
“The sounds of summer throughout Lake George Village will continue to be the playing of the Minne-Ha-Ha’s calliope and the whistles of the steamships, signaling the memory of William Dow,” said Mayor Blais.
Photo of Bill Dow in 1999 courtesy Lake George Mirror.