The Old Dock House was erected by Henry and H.D. Ross after the war of 1812. Henry and H.D. were the grandsons of William Gilliland, who before the Revolutionary War, founded the villages of Essex, Willsboro, Elizabethtown, and Westport. The hand painted signatures of the Ross Bros., can still be seen on the stairway leading to the loft of the original warehouse. The deepwater on the eastern end of the pier accommodated the canal boats that entered Lake Champlain from the Hudson River via the Champlain Canal. These boats brought the goods that the Essex merchants used to furnish the handsome homes built during the period form 1812-1854. The canal boats, on the return voyage to the cities of the NE, transported stone, lumber, and other raw materials. The Brooklyn Bridge was built from the stones quarried from Willsboro and shipped from the Old Dock House. The first steamship on the lake was The Vermont built in 1809. Essex was port of call for this and other steamships until World War II. After 1855, when the railroad reached Whitehall,NY, the canal boats no longer made port in Essex and after the railroad was completed from New York to Montreal, all lake traffic declined. As late as the 1950's the Essex-Charlotte Ferry landed on the southern edge of the Old Dock pier. The ferry ramp was located near the current of the 1905 Matthews wooden boat. The Old Dock was converted to a restaurant in the 1930's, first as a tearoom, then as a lunch and dinner house. Black Bart Bailey bought the property in the 1960's and served fine food and strong spirits until 1983. Joanne and Jack Halpin, along with Jack Hurley and Robin Hill renovated the property in 1985 and reopened the restaurant.
On The Map