From schooners in the 19th century to patrol craft in the 21st century, for five generations the Hodgdon family have launched vessels into the Damariscotta River from the shore of East Boothbay, Maine.
The 198-year history of the 5 generations of Hodgdon boat builders is possibly the longest history of a family of boat builders in the USA. The shipyard has launched over 400 vessels.
Caleb Hodgdon started this history with the launching of a 42' pinky schooner for the local fishing fleet in 1816. This entrepreneur's primary business was a sawmill and gristmill. Between 1850 and 1895 the yard and the mill prospered. The mill ground tons of grain, and sawed thousands of board feet of lumber while 24 schooners (all commercial vessels, either cargo carriers or fishing boats) were launched. During this period three generations of Hodgdons were building in their shipyard. Caleb the patriarch oversaw the operation until 1870, when the second generation formed the company C. George & James P. Hodgdon.
The third generation, George's sons, Fred, William, Charles and George I. born between 1871 and 1881 also came of age in the yard and the mill. It is this generation of men who were the "brothers" of Hodgdon Brothers.
In 1895 the last vessel of the 19th century slid down the ways. The last five years of the century seem to be lean years for shipbuilding in E.B.B. and resulted in the third generation leaving home to find work. George, the youngest, headed to Skowhegan Maine where he was employed building boats for logging interests. Fred, Will, and Charles headed to the Herreshoff yard in Bristol, Rhode Island.
In 1901 William and Charles returned to E.B.B. from RI, while Fred would remain as a foreman at the Herreshoff yard. George would return before 1910. In what is often called the "Golden Age of Yachting" two of the most important U.S. yards have Hodgdon men involved.
In addition to yacht work, the war effort came to East Boothbay bringing commissions to build sub chasers, patrol boats, and minesweepers.
The 20th century also brought the fourth and fifth generation of Hodgdons to the yard. George I. Hodgdon Jr. or "Sonny" was born in 1922, and if he were here he would tell you he was at work by 1932.
During the Korean War the yard built 12 144' Patrol boats. In the middle of this production, disaster struck the yard. In 1954 a fire swept through the yard destroying most of the yard's buildings and records, a year later William and Charles died and within another two years, George I. senior would pass on.
Faced with rebuilding the family yard without the guidance of his father or uncles, Sonny grabbed the bull by the horns and moved forward. He rebuilt the sheds; he won the contract to build Bill Tripp Sr.'s first boat, secured two contracts from Sparkman & Stevens and also built 24 small boats to his designs between 1956 and 1960. Clearly Sonny inherited some of the entrepreneurial spirit Caleb possessed, as well the tenacity to weather the all too frequent hard times boat builders face. Through the 1960's Sonny and his crew built yachts for Alden, & Herreshoff, and to his own design. In 1969, resisting the trend of building production yachts in fiberglass, he sold the yard to Neil Tillotson and headed to his Murray Hill home to build lobster boats under the business name of G.I. Hodgdon Co.
In 1979 Timothy Hodgdon returned to the family business and adopted Cold Molded construction methods that transformed the company. His chapter in the family history is being written today. Please view the rest of our website to learn more about his commitment to building "state-of-the-art and cutting edge technology vessels to the highest standard" - the standard of a 200 year-old family legacy of boatbuilding tradition.