Lake Wawasee Legend on the Auction Block

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 24, 2010 at 11:54 AM EDT

LAKE WAWASEE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--Eli Lily is a towering figure, the legendary head of the Hoosier drug company that bears his name, philanthropist, family man and passionate sailor. And when he wasn’t ensconced in his Indianapolis corporate office Eli Lily was here, at his beloved lakeside cottage on the shores of Lake Wawasee. In a secluded boathouse on a backwater of that lake, a piece of Lily family history has been rediscovered.

Chuck: I think this is a floating mahogany sculpture…absolute perfection and it’s original.

This is Eli Lily’s personal Chris Craft model U-22 runabout, original, untouched, exactly as it looked the day it was built for Lily in 1941.

Chuck: Eli Lily was a sailor he had sailboats, yachts and that was his passion. And this was a boat to putt around his beloved Wawasee where the boat has remained for 68 years.

This wooden gem has one other claim to fame. Lily ordered the boat from Chris Craft in the fall of 1941; this is the original bill of sale. But as the keel was being laid history intervened. December 7th, 1941, that infamous date on which the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America found herself at war. Within days the U.S. Government ordered Chris Craft to cease all commercial operations and begin building warships.

Chuck: And Chris Craft wrote Mr. Lily a letter saying we’re sorry the government has stepped in and we’re now working for the United States Navy you’re boat will not be delivered.

Undaunted by global conflict Lily wrote back this letter, saying he’d paid for his boat and expected it to be delivered on time, outfitted as ordered. Three weeks later the boat arrived. It has remained on Wawasee ever since, the last twenty years out of water in storage. This week it will be listed on EBay and sold to the highest bidder. The current owners hope it will remain on Lake Wawasee, the only waters its hull has ever touched. But wherever it ends up it will carry its story with it…of its birth at the dawn of world war, and of the baron of industry who found a measure of peace, each time it set sail. Eric Olson reporting, out in ‘Your Country’.

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