The "Other" Thousand Island Dressing

By: Cary R. Brick

Volume 18, Issue 9, September 2023

Thousand Islands dressing is served everywhere, from home kitchens to the finest gourmet restaurants and inns around the world. I even enjoyed it at a hotel in Taipei, Republic of China! Calling it "Sofia's Sauce," Sofia Lalonde of Clayton, NY, created it, and it made its way to vaudeville star May Irwin. Its popularity took off from there. The rest is history.

But there is another dressing – served to patrons of Harold and Ella Bertrand's Hubbard House hotel, also in Clayton, NY. Both Harold and Ella B. Cantwell Bertrand were born in the village of Clayton in 1898 and became icons in the Thousand Islands hospitality business.

The Hubbard House, c. 1880s. Photo:, via Thousand Islands Museum.

Clayton historian Tom LaClair, who has done an outstanding job documenting Clayton's early days, told me the Bertrands purchased the Hubbard House in late September 1923 and operated it for the next 45 years. Harold and Ella changed the name of the Hubbard House to Bertrand's in 1961. On September 7, 1968, roughly five weeks before closing the hotel, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Over the years, the Hubbard House hosted fishermen who traveled great distances to enjoy the sport here in the islands. Of course, I wasn't there at that time. Still, it is said that as many as ten trains arrived daily, bringing fishermen, industrialists, and wealthy island people with their servants to the area during the Golden Age of Clayton's early days of tourism.

As a boy in the 1950s, I often joined Harold on the hotel's grand front porch, while my mother was shopping in Schaefer's grocery store, on the other side of James Street. He frequently treated me to a glass of chocolate milk (I've never had better!) from Ella's kitchen. At the same time, I listened to every word of his recollections of the fishermen guests who stayed at the hotel every summer, and who enjoyed Ella's box lunches during the days when they were out catching fish. They looked forward to Ella's preparation of the day's catch for dinner. After dinner, they gathered in the parlor to exchange 'fish stories ' and enjoy each other's goodwill.

On the parlor walls were the trophies of taxidermists who, for posterity, recorded locally caught muskellunge, Northern Pike, and bass. As a kid, I was mesmerized by those catches, many times larger than the perch and rock bass I was reeling in at our house, on the tip of Steele Point.

Nearby was the kitchen, overseen by hands-on Ella, staffed by local ladies, some of whom also served lunches and dinners in the two dining rooms, and who had doubled as chambermaids earlier during the day. It was in that kitchen that Ella made her own Thousand Islands dressing,  which they did not sell in the marketplace!

Harold Bertrand died at the age of 78; Ella B. Cantwell Bertrand passed away at the age of 87.

Now, here's the lowdown on Ella's salad dressing. She didn't share it with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, but she did give it to her friend, my mother Emily (1914 – 2004), who shared it with me. And now, I share it with, but please, hold it close to your heart and honor the late Harold and Ella Bertrand – two of Clayton's finest people and Thousand Islands' legends.

The Other Thousand Island Dressing. [Illustration by Marie-Anne Erki]

Ella's Thousand Island Dressing

1 can of undiluted tomato soup
1/2 cup salad oil
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon each of salt, dry mustard, and chopped white or red onion
1/2 teaspoon each of black pepper and paprika
Dash of celery seed (optional)
1 clove of garlic, crushed


By Cary R. Brick

Cary Brick, a lifelong Thousand Islander, is a retired 30-year Congressional Chief of Staff. He and his wife, Janet, a former Clayton Town and Village Judge, are principals of their Riverside Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations and quality of life programs in the Thousand Islands.
Marie-Anne Erki is TI Life's illustrator and accomplished artist. She is also Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at Canada's Royal Military College where she taught for twenty years.

The Hubbard House, c. 1880s. Photo:, via Thousand Islands Museum.

Posted in: Volume 18, Issue 9, September 2023, History, People, Places

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