Kallusch Boat Builders

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The Kallusch Boat house (circa 1950) with its distinctive  Sodus Point painted on the north side of its roof. Postcard courtesy of Bill Huff, Jr.

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During World War II, the Kallusch Boat House had this sign painted on the  south side of the roof. It was used by aviators and pointed the way to the Williamson Airport. The Army Air Corp paid a small amount of money to the Kallusch family for its use. Unless otherwise noted all photos are courtesy of the Kallusch family.


In the 184o’s, Henry DoVille and David Rogers began a tradition of boat building in Sodus Point. That tradition continues today with three generations of the Kallusch family.


The following information comes from the 1971 Hoffman paper “With These Hands” written by Michael Kane and permission of the Hoffman Foundation and the Office of the Wayne County Historian:


“It is of the men who toil the age old craft of boat building along these shores that this story is written for they are the dreamers, the artists, the craftsmen who keep the bays alive. Their fame is not measured in money or material things, it is rather how “she trims”, how she “planes”, the beauty of the design, and her sea-worthiness. Bill Kallusch was one of these dreamers, an artist, a craftsman – Bill Kallusch, Master Boat Builder.


Born the son of Frederick Kallusch, a very well known Rochester Tailor on the night of October 17, 1897, William C. Kallusch started on a journey which was not to end until February 26, 1970.


As a child William and his family spent a great deal of time together at their cottage on Irondequoit Bay. Here the family had access to various boats. In addition to the iceboats, there were power boats and sailboats.


Carving small craft models and putting in detailed outlays of the boats he knew and loved was a personal hobby by the age of 15.  When Bill was still in high school (old East High), the Kallusch’s built a new home at the corner of Culver Road and McBeth Street in Rochester, New York.  It was about this same time that he built his first boat which was a row boat for the family camp. At this time he also built his first iceboat.


When Bill was working for Rochester Boat Works his name was listed in the Rochester phone book as “Boat Carpenter”.  In 1920 Bill decided to take his knowledge of boat building and his love for water adventure and try a business of his own.  With this in mind, he left the Rochester Boat Works and rented a small shop along the Irondequoit Bay.  He and Dean Russel, a newly acquainted friend, decided to design and race speedboats against Gar Wood on the Detroit River.  Gar Wood was a famous speedboat racer at this time and did a great deal of racing on the Detroit River.  The two men designed the boat, and Bill built it.  This boat was a hydroplane and won 3-4 races.  In the winter months Bill built iceboats and, loving the sport, spent many hours iceboating himself.

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William C. Kallusch and his iceboat creation the “Firefly” on Irondequoit Bay. It was basically an airplane on skis with its wing removed. It is said it could do 100 mph. Photo courtesy of his son Bill L. Kallusch.


Bill decided to move to the Point and set-up his business.  In 1923 Bill’s father purchased what is now Anchor Yacht Sales, for his son.


He rented out fishing boats, sold tackle, hunting equipment, boating accessories and gasoline.  His sister Margaret Kallusch moved to the Point with him to help with the settling of his home and business.  They lived in an apartment over the shop and later moved to a cottage near the Yacht Club.  In order to make the business thrive they would devote Sundays to the renting of fishing boats for an extra income.  There was very little boat building going on during this time.


Bill’s dream and whole interest centered around the building of boats – being a store keeper was not in his heart.  His one idea was to build boats. He was ready to starve to death to do that which was most important to him.  Bill like many of them who struggled to make dreams a reality, found he had lost all he had invested.  His sister Margaret tells of his driving to their camp in the Adirondack Mountains to tell his father of his failure.  Ever since the start of this venture, his father had not been too compatible with the idea of Bill’s only building boats.  It seemed that he really wanted Bill to stay in the tailoring trade.  So that the investment would not be a total loss, Bill’s father gave the business to Bill’s younger brother, Herb Kallusch who had also tried and failed in tailoring.


Upon leaving the area by the Yacht Club, Bill moved down the road and rented a small building from George Helfer, and started building his beloved boats once more.  This time he was right in the middle of the main street of Sodus Point. The first big job was a tour boat which he and his brother Herb worked on together.  Bill built the boat and his brother who was mechanically inclined, installed the engine.


Bill loved sailing and he started to build a few sail boats.  Unlike most builders, he did not start with small ones, but instead he built larger vessels and gradually dropped down to the smaller ones. In fact, his first was a Star class boat.  He sold this to two sisters who in turn named it “the Two Sisters”.  Sleek and fast, this boat soon became local champ.  The finishes which Bill put on his boats were always perfect and this is why they often slid through the water to victory.  He built two Star class boats.  In the North Fitzhugh Street shop, Bill started the construction of the “Robin” class boat.  In fact, he was one of the first boat builders to start building these.  He built one champion Robin #18 for Terry Patton, a local sailor from Lyons.  He also built a number of other Robins of lesser fame.  This Robin Class has been replaced by a new design. The old Robins are still around on the bay, but their class boat no longer exists.

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About this same time Bill designed his own boat, the Kallusch Buzabout.  These Buzabouts were built in three models:  the Buzabout Deluxe, the Super Buzabout and the Baby Buzabout.  These boats were fast, seaworthy and safe family outboard boats with the pride of craftsmanship built into everyone.  They became so popular that people were inquiring about them as far away as Europe.


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In 1934 Bill sold the Fitzhugh Street shop and moved over by the coal trestle at Sodus Point where Bill Kallusch Boats stands today.  Although he had built many beautiful boats, he was by no means rich.  He had put so much time into each craft to make it perfect that he could not have possibly prospered.  In his new shop bill continued to build the Buzabout and Robins.  When the United States entered the Second World War, Bill was too old to serve as a soldier.  Penn Yan Boat Works again enlisted his aid as head of Quality Control. They were at this time building an eighteen foot power utility boat for the Army which was used mainly on the Rhine River to move docks and equipment and make repairs in shallow waters.  Bill designed and drew most of the hardware for the boat which was published in book form by Penn Yan Boat Works.


In 1952 Bill started his last custom boat.  This was the “Kid Boots”, a 22 ft. inboard hydroplane powered by a Lincoln V8 300 hp engine.  This boat could do 70 mph on the water with no effort.  It took him four years to build this boat.  He designed and built it with all his many skills and it was considered perfect when finished. This was the first pleasure boat he had built for himself; he had poured thousands of dollars into it.


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Kid Boots III with its distinctive fin


In 1956, Bill Jr. returned from four years Coast Guard duty to run the business while his father devoted full time to boat building.  Bill, Jr. has been helping his father around the shop since he could walk.


In the late 50’s Bill started building Rhodes Bantams for area sailors. In the early 60’s he built boats for the Jr. Sailing Association of the Sodus Yacht Club.  His boats won numerous races on the Bay and several of his crafts were area champions.  In 1964 he built the “Yankee”, a perfect Rhodes Bantam and sold her very inexpensively to Fisk Hayden, a young sailor on the bay. Bill Jr. was the one who put the finishing touches on the overhaul of the Rhodes Bantam sailboat which placed 6th in the international races held in Kentucky, 1965.  This boat won all races in her class.  In 1966 Fisk Hayden sold her to a boat firm for a plug of the new fiberglass boats.  This was heartbreaking for Bill, but the consolation was that his boat was considered good enough to be a pattern for new boat models.   All told, Bill built 19 Rhodes Bantams.”


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Bill was still building his beloved wooden boats when he passed away on  February 26, 1970.


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Photo of Dorathea Kallusch, the wife of William C. Kallusch who passed away when she was young


Since 1970, Bill Kallusch Jr. (William L. Kallush) and his son Todd Kallusch have been carrying on the family boat building tradition.


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Bill Kallusch (William L. Kallusch) and his son Todd Kallusch. Second and third generation Kallusch boat builders. July 2017, photo courtesy of Edith Farrington

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Bad Company was built and designed by Todd Kallusch


While interviewing William L. Kallusch  and Todd Kallusch for this historical article, one thing came across loud and clear. The love of boat building and the craftsmanship of the finished product has been handed down from William C. Kallusch and that the boat building tradition of Sodus Point lives on.


Bruce Farrington July, 2017