Duso's Marina at Crescent Bay

A little bay with a lot of history

If you make your way through town on Route 3 in Saranac Lake, going west out of town toward Tupper Lake, you will come to a sign that says "Crescent Bay Inc. Marina." Turning into the driveway and making your way down the Duso's marina road, you can see the panoramic view of the water and the historic marina complex. The cabins are right in front of you and on your right there is the lake and the boathouses. The lake is named Lower Saranac Lake, and it flows into a crescent shaped bay, which was named for its shape. The Lower Lake, as it is commonly called, is situated within a chain of lakes, including Middle Saranac and Upper Saranac Lakes. This is a place that seems to be stuck in time but this marina has a history like nothing else.

the boat house
The boat house was a frequent stop for boaters.

Harry E. Duso married Sylvia Kimball in the 1920s, and they had two sons. Those two boys—Edward Duso, born in 1925, and Donald Kimball Duso, born in 1931—were raised in the lakeside homestead and the busy marina complex.

"The center of the boat house was where the mouth of the stream was." 

Harry E. Duso kept his boat at the mouth of the stream that lead into Lower Saranac Lake prior to 1924. He did this so he could hunt late and the boat wouldn’t freeze in the water. After a few years, he thought that the mouth of the stream would be a great place to build a boat house. The center of the boat house was where the mouth of the stream was. 

He went to work to raise enough money to buy the property and build his dream. Once he had enough money, he went to work on the property. To build the driveway that lead down to the water, Harry cut over 100 trees and the stumps were pulled and buried forming a road base. Every part of the process was done by hand.

The Duso’s bought the land with the idea of building their home and a multi business on the lakeside in mind. They hired help, and they built the buildings. In September 1924, Harry started building the main boat house and it included room for a small grocery store and restaurant. This building is still standing today. The main homestead house was built in 1926. From there, six cabins were built on the hillside, and fifty covered boatslips were also built as the boating business grew.

crescent bay
The bay is still filled with boats every summer.

The boatslips were two, long, flat-roofed buildings placed on either side of the main boat house. Clients rented the slips and kept their boats there for the season. This was a successful decision made by Harry and soon became available for year round rental. In addition to the rental space for the smaller boats, the Duso’s accommodated large sailboat and pontoon owners with rented anchor space in the bay. The boat owners were taxied out to board their boats and taxied back to shore by the marina workboat. 

In 1939, Harry built a garage 100 foot by 40 foot at the top of his property by Route 3. He wanted to make an automobile service and gas station. When the war started, he turned his building into a machine shop. Government contracts were secured and bullets were produced and shipped to the government munitions factories. Once the war ended, the building was turned back into the service station.

A restaurant was put in the second story of the main boathouse. It was called "The Tea Room." People would come from all over to eat there. Harry’s mother-in-law, Martha Kimball Mills, would make breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serve it to her customers. The fishermen would come in around 6:30 a.m. for breakfast. They would eat while she would make their lunch and pack it for them so they could take it out on the water. They would return around 5 p.m., have dinner, and go home.

crescent bay sign
Follow the sign to the main part of the marina.

The Tea Room has a screened in room so the customers could see the lake. A tour boat would come from Lake Flower and dock at the marina. They arrived at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day for the tourists chance to have some tea and see the scenery.

Martha was Harry’s mother-in-law. She and her husband lived at Crescent Bay during the boating season because she developed the Tea Room idea, and she ran that enterprise because she was a great cook and baker.

"The boat owners were taxied out to board their boats and taxied back to shore by the marina workboat." 

On the first floor of the main boat house, there was a convenient store. The store had common goods for campers. They had fruit, vegetables, canned food, and ice cream among other things. The store supplied local campers from around the lake and local rivers with groceries, gas, and ice. The store closed in 1944 because of WWII.

As Harry Edward Duso Jr. (known as Eddy) and his younger brother Don Kimball Duso grew up, they became more and more involved with the day to day work of the business.

A little while after the war had ended and the two Duso sons had gotten old enough to take over the business, they started running Crescent Bay, Inc. for their father. They later inherited the business.

A new multi-glassed building was built near the gas station to be used as an automobile showroom and two offices. The automobiles sold there at the time were Jeep, Nash, and AMC.

The idea of selling automobiles was given up, and it was switched to selling boats. The new boats were displayed in the showroom building. In 1969, Don, the younger of the two sons, obtained the Ski-Doo business. The showroom then displayed snowmobiles and boats, and accessories for both.

Don eventually took over as sole owner of Crescent Bay Inc. Eddy Duso moved to Florida and did not help with the business, but since it was his inheritance, he still received money from the marina. Don bought out his brother’s share of the business. Since then, Don and his son Don Kimball Duso Jr. (who goes by Kim) have been running the business. The tradition of father and son has been passed down. Kim’s son, Tyler, is now helping out like his father and grandfather did before him.

Have you ever visited Crescent Bay Marina?