Mr. Ed. Andress was born in 1886 and raised in the 1000
Islands area. As his father and uncle before him, he
began building skiffs and outboards at a very young age.
In the 1920's he moved to Rockport where he began what
was to become over the next 40 years a successful boat
In the beginning by building the smaller boats on
speculation during the winter months, he had no trouble
in selling them in the spring. This soon turned into
specialty boats on demand and special orders.
During the next 3 decades, many of Ed's own built tour
boats plyed the St. Lawrence River, carrying the names
of boat lines such as Rockport, Brockville, Ivy Lea
and Long Sault.
Ed also needed a boat of his own which he built as a
passenger boat carrying up to 20 passenger. This was the
first of a long line of "Elva" so named after his
daughers middle name. This also created "Elva
Boat Tours" which during the summer trips were made to
Brockville, Kingston and Alexandria Bay NY with
"Captain Ed Andress" at the helm. Border
crossing was much more open then and special Saturday
evening trips were made to Alexandria Bay for shopping
and theatre goers alike returning to Rockport later in
The last of the Elvas was commissioned in 1956 and was retired
from the water in 2006, although it still sits inside at the marina.
With changes in regulations over the years restricting
the number of passengers, these tours eventually evolved
into a water taxi service carrying a maximim of 12
passengers. Todays water taxi
carries up to 8 passengers.
Following World War 11, Ed's son Elmer joined the
business which for the next 3½ decades was notably
known as "W.E. Andress & Son". Boat building
was quite lucrative at that time with many boat shops set
up on both sides of the border. The Andress's employed as
many as 3 full time employees and as many as 6 to 8 part
time as the summer work also included cottage and dock
building and maintenance.
By 1980 as Elmer entered his 70s he wanted to retire and wanted
his father to retire with him and the family faced the challenge
of finding the appropriate 'next generation' to carry on business.
In 1981 "W.E. Andress & Son" became "Andress Boat Works" with the purchase of the business by Ed's granddaughter and husband, Wendy and Art Merkley, and they partnered with Wendy's brother, Dick Johnston, another family boat builder who worked with Elmer and Ed, to carry on the tradition of building and maintaining wooden boats. This next evolution had more focus on the Marina aspect of the business and more docks were added.
Today Andress Boat Works is proud to be the marina of choice for many families who kept their boats with Ed and many customers are now into the third and fourth generation of dealing with Andress's.
Recently Dick Johnston retired but he still comes in to help mentor younger folks on caring for the returning wooden boats and runs the occassional water taxi trip.
This year marked another retirement milestone as Ethel Johnston, daughter of Ed Andress and mother of Wendy Merkley, retired her Andress built St. Lawrence River skiff. The Undine was build in 1903 by Ed's father for Miss Anne Thaxter Eaton on Tar Island. In later years after the Eaton family sold their place on Tar Island, Miss Eaton would spend her summer vacation at the home of Ed and Edna Andress and row her skiff daily around the river. When Miss Eaton passed away in 1971, Ethel Andress Johnston became the new owner and continued to proudly row the skiff around the river until a few years ago. Now it is retired and is proudly on display in the RiverRock Shoppe at Andress Boat Works for many to enjoy her beauty. A history wall is in the making to capture some of the history of the boats built and maintained by Andress's over the years.
Wendy can be found triping about the river in a 19 ft. day tripper built by W. E. Andress and Son back in 1955 for Mr. Aubrey Hunt. Wendy was fortunate to be able to purchase this boat from Linda Hunt-Nelson and Dick restored it and still helps Wendy keep it in top notch shape.
Art and Wendy invite folks to drop by and see the store and the shop, much of which is still the way it was when Ed and Elmer were building boats, although parts have changed, you can visualize how things might have been 40-50 years ago.