George Lawley and Son, boat builders

No. 2224 Putnam Nail Factory (this site taken over by Lawley on Port Norflk). Advertisement in Youth’s Companion, June 29, 1893.


George Lawley Sr. (1823-1915) who came from a family of boatbuilders in Limehouse (London), England, found his first job in America with the East Boston ship designer, Donald McKay. After 15 years, Lawley and fellow worker William Maybury opened a shipyard in Scituate in 1866 for the construction of pleasure boats. The “Lawley built” boat stood then, as it did well into the 20th century, for perfection in every detail.

No. 2885 George F. Lawley. Photograph published Men of Progress. (Boston: New England Magazine, 1894).
No. 5121 Frederick D. Lawley

In 1874 the yachting boom struck, and the firm transferred its yard to a more advantageous location near the city, a fairly large lot next to the Boston Yacht Club station at City Point in South Boston. Within a few years, the demand for new yachts became so great that the plant was moved to the north side of City Point, and in 1902 additional area was secured when the city abandoned the old House of Correction property. It was here that the firm built two of Boston’s greatest yachts, the cup defenders Puritan and Mayflower.

The Lawley Company was practically crowded out of its City Point yard in 1910 by an overflow of work, and inability to expand, so the plant was moved across Dorchester Bay to the old Putnam Nail Works at Neponset. [Note that for a short time after Putnam closed, the site had been used by the Magnesia Co. of Massachusetts]. The Guinevere was built at the Neponset yard. It was the first yacht ever fitted with Diesel oil engines motoring her electric Westinghouse equipment which propelled the boat, hoisted the sails, lighted, heated and “cooked” the craft, and twirled the big gyroscope which keeps the boat on even keel.

In 1926, George, Frederick and George ** left the company and set up F. D. Lawley in Quincy, Massachusetts.  The firm of George Lawley & Son continued on in Neponset until it closed in 1945-1946.

From the 19 teens through the 1940s the George Lawley & Son Company occupied the point of Port Norfolk, a site occupied by the Putnam Nail Company in the second half of the 19th century. Primarily a builder of high quality yachts, the Lawley Company turned to the production of watercraft for the US Navy in both World Wars. If you go to Port Norfolk, you can see some of the buildings still in place, especially the large rectangular brick building on Ericsson Street that was later used by Seymour Ice Cream (in the illustration, it is the large building at the front and left with the George Lawley & Son sign).

No. 5153 Illustration from Lawley brochure, ca. 1930, showing the Lawley boatyard at the point of Port Norfolk.

The company moved from South Boston to Dorchester to occupy the former property of the Putnam Horse-Shoe Nail Company.

No. 3570 Postcard. The Lawley Basin, Neponset, postmarked September 17, 1914.
No. 3455 Postcard Lawley’s Yacht Basin in South Boston, circa 1910.
No. 360 Postcard. Lawley’s from Tenenan Beach.
No. 1824 Postcard. Works of Geo. Lawley & Sons, Neponset.

No. 2067 The yacht Shogun. Photographs from 1932 advertisement in Yachting Magazine. The Shogun was a 130 foot diesel cruiser.
No. 2229 Advertisement in Yachting Magazine, Nov., 1938, by Electric Storage Battery Company with illustration of the Barkentine Intrepid built by Geo. Lawley & Sons Corp.
No. 2390 The yacht Firelands builit by Lawley, photographs from Yatching Magazine, January, 1832.
No. 2391 Firelands from Yachting Magazine, January, 1932.
No. 2557 Cavu. Photograph published in Yachting Magazine, October, 1937. Cavu was described as an unusual 46-foot sport fisherman recently completed by George Lawley & Son.
No. 2604 Egeria. Article from Yatching Magazine, August, 1939.
No. 2743 Illustration of a Lawley-made cruiser in advertisement from Sterling Petrel Engine Company.
No. 3175 Landing craft buillt for troops in World War II, from Yachting Magazine, September, 1947.

See article “Launched from a Neponset shipyard, Subchaser 256 did its duty to the end.” By James Hobin, published in Dorchester Reporter, June 13, 2014.

No. 3268 Hoosier V, built by Lawley.
No. 4352 Lawley boat Tamasese offered for sale on eBay, July 2004.

Lawley Tamasese

Lawley boat offered for sale on eBay, July, 2004, at an opening bid of $125,000.

TAMASESE FOR SALE TAMASESE was built by George Lawley in 1926 (Hull #979) for Leeds Mitchell of Chicago and Nantucket. The boat was named for Tamasese, a King of Samoa at the time Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) lived there (1890-1894). Austin Strong, a friend of Leeds Mitchell, lived on Samoa with RLS and suggested the name. TAMASESE was the second of 14 Lawley Standard 38-ft. Cabin Cruisers built between 1926 and 1928. The boat was designed by Walter McInnis. McInnis’ drawing, dated November 16, 1925, is in the Hart Nautical Collections at MIT. The construction drawings were done by Fred W. Goeller. They are also in the Hart Collections.

Lawley built 12 Standard 38-footers in 1926 (nos. 978-983, and 994 to 999) and two more in 1927 and 1928. At least three of the boats still exist: TAMASESE, CHAUTAUQUA (ex-IRAWEN) (#994) and NAMAUS (#998). Prior to WW II, TAMASESE had four owners, all of whom kept the name TAMASESE and listed the boat in Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts. In 1940, Stanley W. Ferguson, a Boston coffee mer-chant and member of the Corinthian (Marblehead), Boston, Savin Hill, and Squantum YCs, purchased TAMASESE after an explosion de stroyed his 50-ft. express cruiser TRIM TOO. Ferguson used TAMASESE II for about a year while James E. Graves built TRIM FORE to replace TRIM TOO. Like TAMASESE, TRIM TOO and TRIM FORE were designed by Walter McInnis. Both had forward cockpits.

When Ferguson bought TAMASESE, he had Simms Bros. of Dorchester, Mass., install a forward cockpit, and used the boat as a tender for his children’s fleet of racing sailboats, towing the sailboats to various regat-tas in Massachusetts Bay. When Graves delivered TRIM FORE, the company took TAMASESE in trade. It was the beginning of WW II, and Graves transferred the boat to the Fred J. Dion Yacht Yard in nearby Salem where Dion sheathed the hull and operated the boat for the U.S. government as a harbor patrol craft.

Following WW II, Dion purchased the boat from the government, restored it to yacht condition, and sold it to Fred Mower, a partner in the Durkee-Mower Co., the makers of Marshmallow Fluff. Mr. Mower, a member of the Corinthian YC, renamed the boat JOMO. In 1958, Edmond H. Lalime, another member of the Corinthian YC, purchased the boat and renamed it MILANED. A photograph of MILANED appears in the CYC Year Book in the late ’50s and early ’60s. In 1972 the boat was purchased by Paul Pelletier, a member of the Salem Willows YC, who renamed it BEWITCHED.

In September 1988, Albert Hickey purchased the boat and moved it to Gloucester, Mass., for professional restoration. New: 58 ribs, 12 floors, fir planking, shelves, clamps, mahogany deck and transom, cockpit sole, vertical windscreen, cockpit ‘awning’, shaft, etc., etc. Completely refastened. The boat, which retains all her original Lawley hardware, was refitted with a completely rebuilt 1923 Scripps E-6 gasoline engine (598 cu. in.) rated at 100 hp, the engine specified by Walter McInnis in 1925. Accommodations include two berths in the forward stateroom, followed by a hanging locker and WC on the port side and a galley with a Shipmate coal range on the starboard side. Aft of that is the main cabin with a double berth to port and a single berth to starboard.

The yacht was relaunched in 1999. Since then it has appeared in antique boat shows at the Mystic Seaport Museum, the International Yacht Restoration School, and the Boston Antique and Classic Boat Festival. This yacht is for sale “as is”. Her restoration is 90 percent complete. She needs some interior restoration work to complete the restoration. This includes an engine cover and main cabin furnishings) For more info and pictures go to: For more on the history of Lawley Yachts go to: The seller is interested in this yacht going to a collector/yachtsperson who knows and appreciates the maintenance and expense associated with owning a wooden boat and is committed to completing the restoration to her original 1926 specifications and maintaining “Tamasese” in Bristol condition.

The price set is based on the amount spent on the restoration over the past ten years. If a buyer is interested in buying and maintaining a rare yacht built buy one of the premier yacht builders in the States then they should contact the seller and negotiate a price that may be acceptable to both parties. for serious inquiries only: Albert Hickey P.O.B. 242 Gloucester, MA 01931 978-281-4440


Other Industries of New England: Their Origin, Development and Accomplishments, Illustrated by Many Old and Interesting Views. Boston: Issued by The State Street Trust Company, 1924

The Lawley family collection of papers is held by the G.W.Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport.


Posted on

May 12, 2020