Undoubtedly the most long-lived and probably the most popular of all the wooden-hulled ferries which over the years plied the waters of Toronto Bay was the little LUELLA, a ship which in many ways more resembled a private yacht than a workhorse passenger ferry, LUELLA laboured for 56 years at her job of getting residents and excursionists alike safely across the Bay to and from the Islands.
As built, LUELLA was at best a curious-looking craft. She was a single-decker and sported a ram bow. Her boilerhouse, located amidships, protruded up above the level of the boat deck and gave the boat deck the appearance of having a step in it. Forward on the boat deck she carried an octagonal pilothouse (commonly referred to as a "bird cage") which sat right against the forward end of the boilerhouse. This pilothouse was incongruously large for the ship and tended to ruin her delicate lines and give her an appearance of top-heaviness. The lower deck was completely open forward and aft of the boilerhouse and in inclement weather was closed in by dropping canvas curtains. She carried only half-height wooden bulwarks and heavy wooden rails surmounted the closed section to ensure that inquisitive children remained on board and did not take an unexpected bath in the Bay.
On July 30, 1880, Thomas McLean for the Registrar of Shipping for the Port of Toronto recorded the fact that LUELLA's traditional 64 shares were owned by one Robert Scott, engineer, of Toronto. Although she was operated in the Turner Ferry Company's fleet, Capt. John Turner, manager, the press referred to her as "Armour's Steam Yacht." On September 7, 1880, the Registrar recorded that she had been purchased by John Turner of Toronto. Turner died in 1887 and on April 9th of that year, for the sum of $14,600, the assets of the Turner Ferry Company were acquired from the Turner Estate by the Doty Brothers operating as the Doty Ferry Company. On July 23, 1887, Thomas McLean once more made an entry on LUELLA's certificate of enrollment, this time to the effect that her 64 shares had been purchased by John Doty, machinist, of Toronto.
The Doty Ferry Company had a very short life, for on September 24th, 1889, the Toronto Globe was informed that E. B. Osler, "in partnership with others," was negotiating for the purchase of the firm. On January 3rd, 1890, the Registrar transferred LUELLA's 64 shares to William Hendrie of Hamilton, contractor, and Edmund Boyd Osler of Toronto, broker, as joint owners. On February 27th, the Toronto Ferry Company Ltd. was registered as a joint stock company with capitalization of $250,000, the directors being F. W. Doty, Henry Beatty, Edmund Boyd Osier (president) and William Hendrie (vice president). It was on May 3rd, 1890, that Thomas McLean once more took pen in hand to document the transfer of LUELLA's 64 shares to the Toronto Ferry Company Ltd,
LUELLA received several rebuilds during her lifetime, the first coming in 1896 although we are unaware of whether this was simply routine maintenance or whether repairs were necessitated by an accident. The second occurred after she was damaged by fire at her dock at the foot of Yonge Street on May 9, 1904. It appears that she returned to service in 1906 and it is possible that her first day of service was July 4th when she took up duties on the run to Lakeside Home which was located on the Island near Gibraltar Point midway between Island Park (Centre Island) and Hanlan's Point. The dock to which she operated was on the south shore of Lighthouse Pond. The "Lakeside Home for Little Children" had been built in 1882 by John Ross Robertson as a summer sanitarium for the Hospital for Sick Children. A large new main building was erected in 1891 and it served until it was destroyed by fire on April 22, 1915. The hospital continued to operate the home into the 1920's using the outbuildings which had surrounded the main structure.
During the 1906 rebuild, LUELLA lost her pilothouse and thereafter (her appearance much improved) she was steered from a position on the main deck forward of the boilerhouse. A row of passenger seats faced inward on each side of the bow quite close to the wheel and the master at the wheel had to contend not only with exposure to the elements but also with the crowds of passengers and the inquisitiveness of small children. It was only quite late in her service that LUELLA's master received the benefit of the shelter afforded by a wind and weather screen which was installed in front of the wheel. A three-sided affair, it had windows on each side at eye level.
At the same time as she lost her pilothouse, LUELLA appears to have received normal waist-high bulwarks both fore and aft. Further refinements came over the years and it was about 1915 that she lost her ram bow. About this time she also had her after deck partially enclosed. Wooden sides with large windows were fitted to give shelter to the passengers, but openings were left at the stern and on each side where the snubbing posts were located. These open areas could be closed with canvas curtains as could the foredeck, although the forward curtains were seldom used as they blocked the captain's view. One refinement that LUELLA never got was electric lighting and throughout her 56 years she operated with only kerosene lamps. This must have seemed quite an anachronism in her final years and, in fact, she was one of only two ferries in the T.T.C. fleet that did not have electric light, the other being JOHN HANLAN.
LUELLA operated for the Toronto Ferry Company Ltd., which was managed by Lawrence Solman and to whom full control passed about 1915, for more than three and a half decades. On November 1st, 1926, the Corporation of the City of Toronto acquired the assets of the Toronto Ferry Company Ltd. and the Registrar of Shipping recorded the transfer of LUELLA's 64 shares on the day following. Solman and his company received payment of $337,500 for their vessels and shoreside properties and Solman himself remained as manager of the ferry operations until February 21, 1927, on which date the city handed over operation of both the ferry service and the Hanlan's Point amusement park to the Toronto Transportation Commission, the operator of the city's street railway system. On April 15, 1927, the ferries began their first year of service under T.T.C. control and on that day three steamers were put into operation. LUELLA was one, the other two being JOHN HANLAN and CLARK BROS.
It was about 1927 that LUELLA was involved in a rather humourous accident which also involved the double-deck steamer JOHN HANLAN. LUELLA had broken her shaft and was lying disabled at the Ward's Island dock. The HANLAN was dispatched to tow her back to the city dock and she put a line aboard the disabled ship. When the line had been secured, the HANLAN started to pull, her master unaware that LUELLA's lines had not been cast off from the dock. If the towline had parted with the strain, there would have been little damage, but unfortunately it held and the towing bits together with a goodly portion of the stern were pulled right out of the HANLAN. Presumably another steamer was sent to collect LUELLA.
Although as the years passed LUELLA spent more and more time at the Toronto Dry Dock Company for repairs to hull and machinery, she continued in service until October 31st, 1935, when age (and also probably the steamship inspectors) finally caught up with her. She had begun to hog rather noticeably and her yacht-like lines had long ago disappeared. Once retired, LUELLA's boiler and engine were removed and she was hauled ashore at Hanlan's Point amusement park. The worn-out hull was placed in a cradle not far from Durnan's boathouse and it was intended that LUELLA would be used as a hot dog and soft drink stand. This, fortunately, did not take place and the boarded-up vessel rested behind a picket fence, a sign placed on her side proclaiming her many years of service. Her condition, however, deteriorated very rapidly and about 1944 it was decided that the old ship was an eyesore. LUELLA was finally broken up for firewood.
One of LUELLA's earliest masters had been Capt. Jack Hinton who is remembered mainly because he wore gold earrings! For a lengthy period during her later years, the steamer was commanded by a rugged Georgian Bay mariner, Capt. Mike McCormick, who was not only an efficient skipper but also a lifesaver of some fame. On several occasions he rescued tipsy passengers who tumbled off the gangplank into the murky waters of the Bay. LUELLA's last master was Capt. George Browne who later commanded the larger double-ended ferries in the service including the paddlers BLUEBELL and TRILLIUM and the diesels WILLIAM INGLIS and SAM McBRIDE.
Capt. McCormick's long-time mate on LUELLA was a gentleman by the name of Walter Rutherford who, we believe, came from an Oakville or Port Credit family of lake sailors. He was a wispy little man with a droopy mustache and he moved slowly because he suffered from rheumatism. He frequently paid one of the local Island boys a small fee to handle the aft lines of the ferry (for obvious reasons, only at the Island end of the run) while he soaked his feet in a pail of warm water.
The open engine pit and boiler faced aft into the stern passenger section and was only fenced off from the passengers by a waist-high, semi-circular bulwark. Small passengers (and many not so small) used to enjoy leaning on the rail to watch the faithful engineer, Teddy, tending his engine and throwing the occasional shovelful of coal into the furnace. Teddy seemed always to be chewing (tobacco, of course) and his prominent jaws moved in rhythm to the exhaust sounds from the engine.
The engine was not the only piece of machinery which was open to the view of the passengers. The rudder post came right up through the passenger area aft and connected with the quadrant (really only a steel crossbar) located in plain view near the cabin ceiling. The crossbar was attached at either end to rods which ran forward through the boilerhouse into the open forward end where they connected to the steering wheel. Of course, there was no steering engine and wheeling was done by the "armstrong" method.
During the course of her career, LUELLA operated from most of the city ferry docks - Church Street, Yonge Street, York Street, Brock Street, and latterly Bay Streets We understand, however, that she never ran to the Island from the Gerrard Street docks on the Don River as did several of her early contemporaries. Indeed, anyone familiar with the Don River in its 1975 state must wonder how any ships navigated such a course at all. Towards the close of her career, she not only ran from the city docks to Ward's Island but also on summer evenings and weekends provided an Inter-Island service between Ward's Island, Centre Island and Hanlan's Point.
Today, there are few relics to remind us of the 56 years of faithful service put in by LUELLA. One which exists somewhere, although it has disappeared from sight, is the high and melodious chime whistle which she carried in her later years. It was originally on the JOHN HANLAN and served there from the time of her building in 1884 until she was retired and burned as a public spectacle at Sunnyside Park in 1929. It was then moved over to LUELLA and there it acted as her voice through 1935. Before LUELLA was placed in the park at Hanlan's Point, it was removed and transferred to the freight-boat-turned-passenger-ferry T.J.CLARK. This ship last operated in 1959 and lay idle during the 1960 season in the west slip of the old ferry docks. She was broken up over the following winter at the Toronto Dry Dock but by that time the whistle had disappeared, apparently having been removed during the summer months. It would be most fitting if this whistle could be recovered and displayed as a memorial to the three famous steamers on which it served.
To illustrate the affection held by the people of the city of Toronto for the little LUELLA, we can do no better than to quote a few words from a newspaper obituary which appeared at the time the steamer was taken out of services:
"She was never intended to be beautiful or impressive or smart. She is so old-fashioned now that she is quaint; with her wood structures, her puffy high-pressure engine and her kerosene lamps. A friendly old donkey, so she is. Island people have depended on her and she has never betrayed their trust. For years and years it was her part of the game to be first out in the spring and last out in the fall. Statesmen and aldermen and high chief executives have availed themselves of her plodding services.
"Since the day that LUELLA was launched .... she has been the favourite of Toronto children. The waifs of the waterfront adored her and the kids of the Old Ward who rustled fuel and sustenance around the docks of the old harbour regarded her as a sort of maritime good angel which was certain to carry them to the Island sometime during the summer season when the Christian Institute or St. Andrew's or the I.P.B.U. or St. George's or St. Michael's staged a picnic.
"And to the more favoured sons and daughters of St. George Street and Rosedale she was nice and comfy and little and not a bit like the ugly, big, rough double-enders. She was ever the young folks' friend......
"LUELLA is old and obsolete and finally out of commission. All her companions are withered and gone or sunk or burned or rim wracked and gone. Now there is only LUELLA. She has outlasted the best and the worst of them and the entire kit and boiling of them. And by decree of the powers, she has made her last trip. LUELLA is napoo."
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.