One of the most interesting villages along the St. Lawrence, Clayton spreads along the riverfront, with lots of park benches ideal for watching the swift current slide by. The village contains several museums  and the Thousand Islands Inn , where Thousand Islands salad dressing was invented. All along Riverside Drive stand sturdy brick storefronts, built in the late 1800s, while at the corner of Riverside Drive and Merrick Street reigns the Simon Johnston House, a clapboard Italianate home with a widow’s walk and decorative eaves.
Settled in 1822, Clayton soon developed into a major shipbuilding center and steamboat port. The St. Lawrence skiff, known for its sleekness and beauty, was first constructed here by Xavier Colon in 1868, and the 900-passenger St. Lawrence, the largest steamboat ever made, was built in the 1890s. During World War I, the Clayton shipyards produced submarine chasers and pontoon boats.
Tourists began frequenting Clayton in the late 1800s. Most came to fish and boat, and they stayed in huge wooden hotels—since burned down—along the waterfront. During Clayton’s heyday, five express trains arrived here daily from New York City , and one hotel was equipped with a direct line to the New York Stock Exchange. Some vacationers even came during the winter, to ice-fish and watch the horse races run on the frozen St. Lawrence River.
Walking tour maps of the town are available at the Clayton Chamber of Commerce (517 Riverside Dr., 315/686-3771 or 800/252-9806, www.1000islands-clayton.com , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily July–Sept., 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri. Oct.–June).
One of the region’s most popular events, sponsored by the Antique Boat Museum, is the resplendent Antique Boat Show, held every August for over 30 years. The Decoy and Wildlife Art Show, attracting over 200 exhibitors, is held in the Clayton Arena mid-July. For either event, call 315/686-3771.