Miss Lady’s Slipper

“A Reflection in Time”

Start Date: 1997
Completion Date: 1998
Design By: Steve Taylor
Builder: Steve Taylor Builder
Owner: Dr and Mrs Gault Farrell
Location: Hub Island

This small cottage invokes the steam yachts that plied the St. Lawrence at the turn of the last century (1900). She is located on Hub Island , a small half-acre island in US waters, off the head of Wellesley Island .

The scheme developed from the idea of using fabric canopies to provide bright and festive areas, sheltered from the elements, on the exposed island.

While investigating the history of the island, we learned that there was a hotel on the island, The Hub House, in the early 1880’s. It had a liquor license and became a popular “watering hole” for the wayward among the Methodists at nearby Thousand Island Park . The hotel burned after only a few years, but sketches and photos from that time, show steams yachts moored along the island’s shores.

In the early 1900’s, the island became home to the Lindsey family boat building and machine shop. John Lindsey, Sr. came to the river to service steam yachts, after leaving Herreshoff Boat Works, in Bristol , Rhode Island . (Nathaniel Herreshoff is our most famous naval architect – designing 8 America ‘s Cup defenders and many of the fastest steam yachts) The Lindsay business survived three generations, then the island fell into disrepair.

A book, Pleasure Yachts of the Thousand Islands , by Gilbart Mercier, showed that many of these yachts enjoyed canvas canopies over their fore and aft decks, where owners and guests would gather to view the scenery, while cruising among the islands.

All of this information lead to Miss Lady’s Slipper, paying graceful homage to the past, with her “stack” housing flues for a wood stove and barbecue, her second story conceived as a “pilot house”, and her canopied decks.

Note : This project won an Outstanding Achievement Award at the International Achievement Awards competition at the IFAI Expo 1998 in the Single Family Residential Awnings and Canopies category

Read a More Detailed Article on Miss Lady’s Slipper

Hub Island ‘s History:

•  Hub Island ‘s name is a result of its central location among a group of islands. It has been known as The Hub for well over a hundred years.

•  In 1880 a hotel, the Hub House, was built on the island. It acquired a liquor license and was known locally as a “watering hole” for wayward Methodists from nearby Thousand Island Park , a Methodist Summer Retreat. It burned in 1883 much to the relief of the good Methodist brethren.

•  This was the heyday of steam and the glory of the era were the elegant private steam yachts that cruised these waters, the finest and fastest of which were designed by Nathaniel Herreshoff, this country’s greatest naval architect. (He built 8 successful America ‘s Cup defenders)

•  John Lindsay, who had worked in the Herreshoff steam plant, moved to this area early in the century, bought Hub Island and set up a machine and boat building shop on the island to serve the area. He was a renown local inventor, who built, among other things, the first reliable outboard motor in this area.

•  The Lindsay business survived on the island for three generations. The island then fell into disuse and was eventually sold by the Lindsay family in the 1960’s.

•  The island changed hands a few times over the years with no improvements being made to it until the Farrell family purchased the island in 1996.

Note : Mrs. Pheobe Tritton, the Reference Librarian at the Antique Boat Museum , in Clayton , NY furnished us with much of this historical information.

The Family:

•  Phyllis and Gault Farrell and their family are the third and fourth generation of the Farrell’s to summer and sail among these islands.

•  They are descendents of Methodists from Thousand Island Park and they undertook the clean up and repairs to the island and embarked on what would become its third and most recent incarnation.

Program & References:

•  Their requirements for the house included an open front porch, a screened back porch, an outdoor barbecue area, an open kitchen, dining and living area, two or three additional small bedrooms and two baths. The living room was to be small and intimate with a wood stove for heat. Total living space was to be about 1500 sq. ft.

•  Their wishes were that it would be fun and imaginative and that all of the rooms would enjoy views to the surrounding islands.

•  They had seen a model of a boat canopy with a fabric roof that we designed in 1992 and liked the idea of using fabric roofs on their cottage porches to provide bright, naturally lit areas protected from both the sun and the rain on the exposed island.

•  I had a wonderful book in the office, Pleasure Yachts of the Thousand Islands , by Gilbart Mercier, that cataloged many of the fine private steam yachts that plied these waters a hundred years ago. The photographs showed that many of these early yachts had canvas canopies covering fore and aft decks.

•  Thus the idea was born to design the house as though it were the decks and cabins of a luxurious steam yacht, with a smoke stack for the grill and fabric roofs covering the decks.

•  Phyllis Farrell subsequently found a book, Yacht Styles , by Daniel Spurr, which contained a wealth of photographs of interior and exterior details for many kinds of yachts. The two books became our references.

The Design:

•  Our approach in designing always starts with an accurate and complete site survey upon which we plot the directions to desirable views, sunrises and sunsets at various times of the year, prevailing winds, etc. In this case we also modeled the island at 1/8” scale to get a feel for how the volume of the building would relate to the island.

•  We could not conceal a house on this small exposed island so we determined to make it a place of interest and charm.

•  The key to pulling something like this off is to keep it from getting corny. The building must evoke the grace and elegance of the yachts themselves. It can be fun but it cannot be funny.

•  With the nautical theme the design naturally evolved symmetrically as a long, low and narrow building.

•  The house was to be sited on the low, level southwest end of the island, just above the water.

•  We oriented the house to the southwest, the “bow” facing toward nearby Grenell Island . This gave the long glazed sidewalls of the house views to open water and more distant islands.

•  The “stack”, an aluminum chase containing two flues, is centered in the forward wall of the Saloon where it can serve both the barbecue on the forward deck and the wood stove in the Saloon. In this location the hearth and “stack” screen the living quarters from Grenell Island giving privacy to the interior of the house.

•  The forward walls of all the house projections are angled at 30 degrees. This mimics the shape of the cabins on the old yachts as well as directs the views from the interior past nearby Grenell Island and out to the waters on either side. The same angles, at the master cabin and the mess area, serve the same purpose and in addition expand the view aft from the saloon, expanding the panorama.

•  The roofs of the house are gently curved, like those of typical cabin decks. The roofing on the house is tan PVC roofing strapped at the roof edge with brass strapping, similar to the painted canvas decks of the old yachts.

•  The roof shape and the rafters are expressed, like ribs, on the inside and the interior and exterior finishes are all of wood. Mahogany and Fir outside and White Pine, Fir and Mahogany inside.

•  The canopy roofing at the decks is PVC coated polyester structural fabric made in France .

Site Preparation:

•  Because the old rock filled timber cribbing at the head of the island had been eroding for over a hundred years, it had to be contained and stabilized. This was a big undertaking in itself.

•  Interlocking steel sheet piling was driven around the perimeter of this area (238 feet) and tied back to the island. Stone that had fallen out over the years and fill from an old submerged pier that once extended from the island were dredged and used as fill behind the new seawall.

•  Fill was then added to build the site up. As each truck, loaded with fill, came over on the landing barge it returned to the mainland loaded with debris cleared from the island.

The Foundation:

•  The building site was partly on old rock fill from the hotel days and partly on island bedrock. We couldn’t trust the filled area not to settle, so we elected to drill 6” steel well casings through the fill and into bedrock at all the bearing points. These casings were then filled with concrete.

•  A welded frame on four of these piers supports a slab for the granite hearth.

•  Timber sills for the house and the decks are posted up from the remaining piers.

•  Bill Strodel, a project manager from our office, stayed on site and supervised the layout, which was critical because we were using cumbersome well drilling equipment and, with 6” piers, there was very little room for error.

Note : A crew from Nothnagle Drilling, Scottsville , NY came to drill and set the steel piers. They also drilled a well to serve the house.

The Hearth and “Stack”:

•  The circular fire pit and hearth was built of local granite. Stone masons Reggie Roch and Brian Stone, obviously born to their task, did a great job building the tight radiuses from the roughly quarried stone.

•  The flat surfaces around the fire pit and on the shelf above are of Fireslate-2, a dense and impervious masonry counter surface available from Fireslate, Lewiston , Maine . (see FHB – _ )

•  The fire pit forms a Weber style grill built from a heavy cast iron kettle (from Lehmans Hardware, Kidron, Ohio), and adapted to serve the task by John Scarlett, a fine local blacksmith. A Weber lid covers the grill. One of two cast iron doors set into the masonry houses the exhaust fan controls; the other serves as both an air supply to the pit when cooking with the lid on and a clean out.

•  For good reason, the building codes would not allow us to use one flue for both the wood stove and the barbecue. It is not a good idea to mix creosote with grease. They had no design standards for a combined flue like we were planning and explained that we would have use flues that were UL approved.

•  We contacted Bill Schultes (from J.W. Stevens, Inc., in Syracuse , NY ) to develop the stack with a 6” insulated wood stove flue and a grease duct with exhaust fan and controls for the barbecue.

•  After his calculations were completed, we designed an aluminum chase that would house everything and would look like a boiler stack.

•  Bill also arranged for Jack Lombardi (of Syracuse Spiral Forming) to fabricate the aluminum stack complete with the Metalbestos ductwork, and the exhaust fan. When it arrived, we barged it out to the island and raised it into place.

The Woodwork:

•  In designing the house we elected to use Kolbe & Kolbe windows and doors primarily because they offered a 7 foot door unit that would line up with all of our windows heights, which helped us to maintain the strong horizontal lines of the building. We were pleased with their quality as well.

•  The building dimensions were determined by adding the rough openings to the framing requirements for the building. This enabled us to maintain clean and uniform trim on both the interior and exterior of the building. It also lent the building a “tightness” that you might expect to find on a boat or a yacht.

•  This carpentry required very careful and precise craftsmanship. Our framing crew, led by David Bendle, erected the structure with great care. Ivan Hale led a fine trim crew. They all did a great job, paying close attention to detail and keeping true to the theme of the building.

The Roof System:

•  The house rafters are laminated curves up to 32 feet long, measuring 3” X 81/4” in section. They are set approximately 3 ft. on center so they fall over the columns between the windows and doors. They support a 2X6 tongue and groove roof deck which is covered with 1 ½” of polyisocyanurate roof deck insulation.

•  Roger La Pierre of RSI Roofing, Gouverneur , NY found and installed a PVC roofing membrane in a tan color made by HPG Roofing Systems (of Somerset , NJ ) that would simulate the painted canvas decks typical of cabin decks on turn of the century yachts. The roof edge was trimmed with brass to emulate the brass strapping that was used with the canvas.

Note: Because this house is for seasonal use and will be heated with wood it was possible for us to build it using 2 X 4 framing and less insulation in the floor, walls and roof than a year-round house would require.

The Canopies:

•  One of the most delightful and interesting parts of the project for all of us was the fabric canopy roofs over the two decks.

•  Because the Farrells decided to use fabric roofs on this project, my wife and I decided it was time to build the long dreamed of boat canopy on our small island. Thus we had two fabric projects, enough to attract the interest of FTL/Happold of New York City , leaders in this young and innovative field.

•  Wayne Rendeley, of FTL, handled the engineering for us, working with us to size the porch rafters and design sufficient anchoring systems and details to keep things from blowing away.

•  Wayne , in turn referred us to Bill and Elizabeth Murrell of Fabric Structures, Inc. ( Westwood , NJ ). They patterned the fabric, on a computer, and worked with us on detailing all of the stainless steel fittings and connections. Diane Brayley and Jerry St. Germain, of The Fabric Shop in Monmouth , ME fabricated the material and built most of the connectors.

•  The fabric is PVC coated polyester made by Serge Ferrari of La Tour-du-Pin , France . Super-strong Kevlar rope is sealed within the perimeter edge of the fabric, which is clamped and bolted to stainless steel plates and anchored to fittings at the ends of the rafters. These fittings are adjustable and are jacked out by tightening large screws against brass plates on the ends of the rafters. When tightened the material is under several thousand pounds of tension, and seems more like the head of a drum than anything else I can think of. It does not flutter in the wind and is designed to withstand our northern snow loads.

•  The fabric is expected to last about 15 years at which time it will be replaced. We have copies of the patterns so it should be a relatively simple task to replace the cover reusing all the stainless steel hardware.

True to the Theme:

•  Throughout the project, when questions of design arose, we invariably looked to our reference books.

•  The exterior siding is 1 X 4 T&G Mahogany applied horizontally. The exterior deck surfaces are Mahogany also. The trim and the exposed structural members are Douglas Fir.

•  The deck railings are Mahogany with stainless steel cabling for in-fill much like you would find on a yacht.

•  Phyllis Farrell worked out the exterior color scheme. It is a combination of deep green paint to accent the horizontal trim and stretch the building out, and Sikkens Mahogany Stain, on the siding and vertical trim, to give the woodwork a color like that of the many fine old Mahogany boats built in this area. The decks are stained with Benjamin Moore’s, Redwood Decking Stain, which gives a similar look to the Mahogany decks.

•  The interior finishes were drawn from the same sources. The exterior siding of the upper cabin, where it drops down into the first story, continues with Mahogany. The remaining inside walls are paneled with 1 X 4 White Pine applied horizontally as it would be over the inside ribs of a yacht’s hull. On a boat these boards are called “ceilings” (so you might say that this is a house that has no walls only ceilings).

•  To lend contrast and distinction to the galley, the kitchen cabinetry is Cherry, with traditional ship’s storage bins facing the mess area.

•  Hanging on the galley wall is a glass cabinet with a stained glass door depicting a Ladyslipper. The Farrell family have had and cherished this for many years. This is the source of the name.

•  Every bit of the inside space is used for storage. There are lots of small closets, two lazarets in the upstairs bedrooms and built-in bookcases in the Saloon. The winding staircase makes efficient use of space and we have stowed the pressure tank and hot water heater below them.

•  The interior lighting and the plumbing fittings are brass.

•  Phyllis took great care with the interior and exterior furnishings, which are very relaxed and comfortable. Much of it is wicker like that she observed in prints of old steams yachts.

Note : All of the painting, inside and out, was done by Lance Peterson and his capable crew from Peterson Painting, Clayton, NY .

Collaboration – A Craftsman Style Approach:

•  This project started with the Farrell’s dreams for something special and something memorable and it grew from there.

•  It grew, not in size but in interest, as it attracted a wide range of talent; people with expertise in different areas who got excited about this little house on an island and brought their special abilities to the project.

•  The project site became very much a meeting place for craftsmen and a place where the crafts were happily shared and woven together to bring a small dream to life.

•  Miss Lady’s Slipper has expanded our imaginations and our understanding of what we can do; and especially of what we can do together.

Outstanding Achievement Awards

Hub House Deck Covers

Project: House deck covers for Miss Lady’s Slipper on Hub Island in New York. The Home’s profile is inspired by 1920’s era lake steamers, which were equipped with canvas covered decks.
Designer: Elizabeth Murrell
Architect: Steve Taylor
Fabrication: The Fabric Shop (cover)
and Steve Taylor-Builder, Inc. (frame)
Project Manager: V William Murrell
Fabric: Flourotop 1002 from Ferrari
Owner: Dr and Mrs Gault Farrell
Date: 1997-1998

Fabric Structures, Inc.
129 Woodfield Road
Township of Washington, NJ 07675