Preservation Magazine, Fall 2017

Goldenrod Showboat Floods, Sinking Longtime Efforts to Restore It

The Goldenrod Showboat docked in Kampsville, Illinois.

photo by: Sue Rakers

In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Fall 2017.

This past May, the 1909 showboat Goldenrod took on 7 to 8 feet of water during a flood, further sinking longtime efforts to restore it.

The boat traversed the Mississippi River during the early 20th century, showcasing musical performances, vaudeville, and serious dramatic fare. By 1937, it was moored at the St. Louis riverfront, and continued to host performances. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1967. After a 12-year stint on the St. Charles, Missouri, riverfront, where the Goldenrod was restored by the city at a cost of about $3.5 million, the boat ran aground in 2001 when the Missouri River ran low. Facing pricey structural repair requirements to meet Coast Guard standards, the city decided to auction it.

A new owner moved the Goldenrod to Kampsville, Illinois, but failed to perform maintenance or pay mooring fees. In 2008, the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association formed to restore the Goldenrod, but has struggled to raise sufficient funds to pay for mooring fees and repairs. In 2016, the association gave the boat to the Kampsville dock owners, who may sell it for scrap. In the meantime, the association is trying to salvage as many relics and decorations from the interior as possible, in hopes of opening an exhibit at the Missouri History Museum by 2021.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.


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