Saturday, February 20, 2010

The S.S. President Steamboat New Orleans

In 1959 I was with a group of college frat brothers and we wanted to take a trip on this steamboat in New Orleans. It was Mardi Gras of 1959 and so there was a large crowd wanting to get on the boat. We were in line and I very much wanted to ride on this boat. As I remember it someone in our group started a fight in the crowd and we were all banned from getting on the boat. Maybe it was already full or maybe we were too drunk and disorderly but in any event we were told we were not getting on the boat. So I never got to ride on the S.S. President. Read below to read the sad fate of this boat.
However, in 2002 my wife and I were in New Orleans and we did ride on the Steamboat Natchez seen below in another post. So I finally got to ride on a Steamboat on the Miss. River. We went down river past the Domino Sugar Factory. We were told they refine the sugar there and much of it is sent by railcar to Kentucky to make bourbon whiskey.

From Wikipedia:

Built in 1924 and then known as Cincinnati, it was originally an overnight packet boat that carried passengers and freight from Cincinnati, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky. Her first trip was to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

In 1929, she was acquired by the Streckfus Company which briefly continued her use as a packet boat, but then laid her up until 1932. Streckfus moved her to her new homeport of St. Louis, Missouri and over the next two years, the ship was converted to become the largest excursion boat in America. The entire superstructure was rebuilt of steel, and a two-deck-high ballroom was added, as well as a bandstand. It was also at this time that she received her new name, President.

Newly converted and newly named, it opened for business in 1934 and Streckfus advertised her as "the New 5 Deck Luxury Super Steamer, Biggest and Finest On The Upper Mississippi." She continued tramping (having no fixed schedule or published ports of call) until 1941. In 1940, she was displaced from her position as flagship of the Streckfuss line by the S.S. Admiral.

In 1941, the boat switched her home port to New Orleans. Because fuel oil was restricted and many of the young crewmen had joined the armed forces, tramping was discontinued, and the cruises stayed close to home. When World War II ended, the she remained in New Orleans as a popular nightspot.

Because the wind made maneuvering the big boat difficult, she had her two side wheels removed and replaced by 1,000 horsepower (750 kW) diesel engines in 1978.

She was sold in 1985 and returned to St. Louis as her homeport. While there, she was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark on Dec. 20, 1989.

In 1990, President went on its last dinner and dancing cruise before undergoing a ten million dollar renovation and then conversion into a floating casino. It was purchased by what is now known as Isle of Capri Casinos. In 1991, Iowa legalized riverboat gambling and the President opened in Davenport, Iowa with 27,000 square feet (2,500 m2) of gaming space.

The President retired from service in 1999 and was reported, in 2004, to be located on the Yazoo River in Mississippi. At that time, it was for sale by Isle of Capri Casinos.

It was also located at Treasure Island in Lake McKellar at Memphis, Tennessee.

It is currently located (January 2009) in Alton, Illinois, where the National Park Service listed it in November, 2007. It is being dismantled and moved in pieces to St. Elmo, IL, near Effingham, to be re-assembled as a non-floating tourist attraction and hotel.