Editor’s Note: Congratulations to all Grenell Island residents – past and present - who participated in the island’s 100th Anniversary. Special thanks to Lynn McElfresh who worked tirelessly to gather the historical material. We encourage others to record their island history – no matter the size of the island nor one island resident or many. We need to capture this material from many more islands for the generations that follow.
This ends an exciting year on Grenell. The celebration of our 100th year anniversary of the Grenell Island Improvement Association. Of course summering on Grenell is a tradition far older…which started when Sam Grenell started selling lots for summer cottages in 1880. Here’s a decade-by-decade look at the history of Grenell.
21 cottages built between 1880 and 1890
First store established at the foot of the island, A. E. Fox proprietor
25 cottages built between 1890 and 1900
3 cottages burn in that same time period
1890 Sam Grenell sells Grenell house to Sayles
1891 Grenell Island Park Store and Post Office established at head of the island.
1891 Pullman Hotel Opens on the foot of Grenell Island. Pullman is now considered a separate island
1893 Sam Grenell’s nephew George opens a third store on Grenell.
1898 Grenell Island Chapel is built
17 Cottages built between 1900 and 1910
1901 Lucy Grenell dies
1904 Pullman House burns
1904 First wedding in the Grenell Island Chapel
1908 Sam Grenell loses lawsuit and controlling interest in the island
1908 Albert Potter takes over ownership of Grenell Island Park Store
8 cottages built between 1910 and 1920
5 cottages burn down during the same time period
1910 Sam Grenell dies
1912 Grenell Island Improvement Association is formed
1912 First Sidewalks are installed on the island
1913 Two wells are dug on the island
1916 William McFadden is employed as winter caretaker of Grenell.
1917 A man breaks into a cottage and assaults two women. Neighbors come to the rescue and subdue the man. He is brought to trial and convicted.
1918 Kahn & Heffron purchase the Grenell Island Park Store
2 cottages built between 1920 and 1930
2 cottages burn in the same time period
1925 Hiram Wells takes over Grenell Island Park Store
1926 The Word “Park” is officially removed from Grenell Island
1929 Electrical power comes to the island
1929 The Grenell Island Improvement Association leases dock from the store.
1929 The Grenell island Improvement Association Dock Drive is started
1 cottage built between 1930 and 1940
1931 Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary formed
1933 Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary builds shelter at the end of the store dock
1933 Construction starts on Grenell Island Community House—another Grenell Island Ladies Auxiliary Project
1934 Grenell Island Community House dedicated on July 4th
1934-on After the Community House is built, Ladies Aux hosts a weekly potluck
1935 Water so low this year, you could walk to Grenell from Hub Island.
2 cottages burn down (some Grenell Island Improvement Association records lost in the fire)
1940 Era Events at the Community House
Skits & Plays
1945 Edward McCord buys the Grenell Island Store
1945 VJ Day—an impromptu celebration breaks out on Grenell. Children led by the flag parade down sidewalk. Chapel bell rings until it falls off!
1948 50th anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel
1948 Another GIIA Dock fund Drive started in order to pay repairs on dock.
1949 GIIA Fire Fund started to purchase fire pumps for the island
4 cottages built between 1950 and 1960
1 cottages burns down and 2 others are either torn down or removed
1950 Era Events at the Community House
1950 Grenell Island Store Dock is rebuilt
1950 Kraners run Store
1950 Mel Calhoun is named “fire chief”
1951 - 1959 Mel Calhoun is caretaker of the island
1952 Record high water levels caused by building of Canada’s Gut Dam
1953 Paul & Joanne Sage run Grenell Island Store
1956 Mel & Grace Calhoun run Grenell Island Store
1958 Mel Calhoun changes public dock from an L shape to a T-shape.
1959 GIIA dues increase from $5 to $8
1959 Seaway completed shipping started
1959 Public Pay phone comes to the store
1960 Ed & Ruth Slomczeweski buy the Grenell Island Store
1960 Grenell Island Public Dock rebuilt
1961 Ladies Auxiliary give Community House to GIIA as it incorporates
1962 Ed Slomczeweski becomes mail carrier for island route. Grenellians can ride mailboat to and from Clayton on his twice a day mailruns.
1963 Wells on island are contaminated, not fit for drinking
1963 Ed Slomczewski become winter caretaker for Grenell
1964 GIIA create fire map and regulations
1967 “Grand Little Lady of Grenell,” Lois Kerr, miser her 1st summer on Grennel in 76 years, due to a fall. Dies later in season
1 cottage torn down between 1970 and 1980
1970 Era Annual Events include:
PUG Day (Pretty Up Grenell Day)
Auction and Rummage Sale with Bill Wood as auctioneer
“Know Your Neighbor” Cover Dish Supper
Community House Painting Bee
1970 Lois Kerr’s Tiffany windows are installed in the Grenell Island Chapel
1973 75th Anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel
1977 Bob McElfresh appointed Grenell Island Historian
1 Cottage built between 1980 and 1990
1981 No annual Dinner (or picnic) Due to lack of interest
1982 Store Closes at the end of season
1983 Grenell Island Post Office moves to Community House
1984 Grenell Island Library goes to the “honor system”
1984 Square Dance at Community House
1989 Save the River Septic Inspections
1 Cottage built between 1990 and 2000
1994 Community House underwent structural facelift: new foundation, new roof, siding
1994 Square Dance to recorded music
1995 Microburst causes week-long power outage
1996 Community House backdoor relocated
1998 100th Anniversary of the Grenell Island Chapel
1998 Ice storm severely damages trees on the island
2003 First island regatta
2004 Wood floor refinished in community house
2005 Landscaping added to Community House
2006 Flagpole and perennial garden added
2006 Walking regatta added
2006 Reinstated annual auction—Gary McElfresh auctioneer
By Lynn McElfresh, Grenell Island
Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to TI Life, writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. We have learned a great deal over the past three years from Lynn McElfresh’s musings, from moving pianos to island weddings or from plumbing problems to meeting old friends, taking nature walks and the importance of trees. Recently she presented several articles about Grenell for its 100th Birthday. This month she concludes with this overall review.