Carol Swenson was effusive in her praise of two boats that were recently given to the Legacy of the Lakes Museum, and she has plenty of company.

The boats, a 1934 Gar Wood Runabout and a 1915 Fay & Bowen Launch, were gifts from Jack and Betty Thomas, who donated them last year before Jack died.

"These two very special boats really enhance our collection," Swenson, the museum's executive director, said one night last week at a reception where Betty Thomas was introduced along with the boats.

"Jack really relished giving some history and educating the folks (on these boats)," Thomas told those in attendance June 27. She said he wanted them to be displayed in a museum such as this one in Alexandria so that others could appreciate them. As part of the donation, the couple from Hackensack also bestowed an endowment to cover their upkeep and insurance.

"Boats like these start to take on a life of their own, and inspire others," Swenson said.

Tom Juul, a well-known restorer of wooden boats, and Carl Mammel, a director emeritus on the museum's board, assisted in the transaction, and each spoke during the reception.

"These two very different boats would be at the top of any collector's wish list," said Juul, who owns Juul Boat Works in Evansville.

The Fay & Bowen was built during the same year as Jack Thomas' mother was born, and when they purchased it in 2006, it was christened "Miss Irene" in honor of her. It had been sitting in a warehouse for 50 years, and although the starboard stern had a large hole in it, almost all of the original parts were still intact, Swenson said.

"That's one of the parts that makes this such an important addition to our collection," she said.

The 22-foot-long boat was rebuilt and restored in Massachusetts, and the 5-horsepower single-cylinder engine - which doesn't have a transmission - was rebuilt and restored in Walker. Its top speed is only a few miles an hour.

The Gar Wood Runabout has also won awards at boat shows. Manufactured for the 1934 Chicago World's Fair, only 16 of that type were made. This one is believed to be the only one remaining. It was named after former Osakis resident Garfield Wood, who founded the boat company.

"Gar Woods will always be known for their beautiful lines, rich leather upholstery, fine jewelry and beautiful wood," Juul said.

The Thomases acquired the boat in 1999, and it was restored as close to original as possible. To illustrate the lengths they went to, when a scrap of the original leather was uncovered, the original tannery was located and eight cowhides were dyed to match the color.

Race boats

The museum has also added three pieces to its golden age race boat collection, dating back to the 1920s and '30s when big innovations were being made with technology and speed. The wooden race boats exhibition will be open through Oct. 31.

The three include:

Dixie Baby - A 1921 Ventnor design powered with a World War I French aircraft engine. An engine fire in 1927 nearly did in the 24-foot boat, but it was saved and even won the 1928 Webb Cup.

Black Jack - A 1926 Hacker Craft is the only remaining Tampa Baybie built by John Hacker for David Davis, out of 10 originally. The boats could hit speeds of 40 mph with their 125-horsepower motors.

Bolo Babe - A 33-foot 1926 Gar Wood that was part of a line of speedboats made for wealthy sportsmen, and sold for $12,000 - or about $174,000 in today's dollars. The boats were powered by Liberty aircraft engines; this one was initially a 425-horsepower V-12. At one time an 800-horsepower Allison was used; however, it proved too powerful and the boat capsized during races.

"These boats are nearly 100 years old. Just the care and the quality of the restorations is really quite remarkable," Swenson said.

The Black Jack and Bolo Babe are both on loan from private collector John Allen of Gull Lake, who has loaned the museum boats in the past, Swenson said. Those two boats are still used on the water.

After being shown in Alexandria this year, Dixie Baby is poised to be one of the centerpieces of the Minneapolis Boat Show next winter, Swenson said.

Dixie Baby came from a collector with the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York. Dave Bortner of Freedom Boat Service in Mound sits on the Legacy of the Lakes board and also on the board of the museum in Clayton, and brokered the deal to bring the boat here.

"This is really a rather unique opportunity to foster long-term collaborative relationships with other maritime museums nationally," Swenson said. "It also speaks to the high regard this museum is held nationally."

"Alexandria is very fortunate to have this world-class facility here," Betty Thomas said.

Charles Beck

Each year the museum showcases an artist's work, and this year it is spotlighting Fergus Falls native Charles Beck and his Lakes Region landscapes.

Beck, who died in 2017 at the age of 94, made a name for himself with his woodcut prints, often inspired by Minnesota scenes.

An exhibit chronicling Beck's career was on display at the James J. Hill House art gallery through February of this year, where the Minnesota Historical Society displayed more than 40 of his works, from prints and paintings to wood carvings. The Legacy of the Lakes Museum was able to get pieces from that exhibit to add to the collection it is showing now.

Beck's family members are expected to come to the Alexandria museum on July 23 for a talk by Amy Sharpe, who wrote the book, "Charles Beck: The Nature of an Artist."


Museum events

• Friday, July 12, 6:30 p.m. - Mick Sterling presents: "Born to Run, A Celebration of the Music of Bruce Springsteen," in the Legacy of the Lakes Gardens

• Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Legacy of the Lakes Museum Annual Boat and Car Show, Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center

• Tuesday, July 23, 5-6:30 p.m. - Charles Beck Exhibit Gallery Talk featuring Amy Sharpe, author of "Charles Beck, The Nature of an Artist," at the museum

• Friday, July 26. 6:30 p.m. - Joyann Parker Sings Patsy Cline, Legacy of the Lakes Gardens