The SS Columbia, America's Oldest Surviving Passenger Steamboat, Heading To NYC
Thanks to the efforts of a group of passionate New Yorkers, The SS Columbia, America's oldest remaining excursion steamship, will soon be plying the waters from NYC to Albany, New York.
Built in 1902, the two hundred sixteen foot long S.S. Columbia was once the cutting edge of engineering and design at the turn of the 20th Century. 3,200 passengers can comfortably gather on her five spacious decks. The boat, which was possibly headed to a scrap heap, is being transformed into a mobile museum and experiential educational center. People of all stripes will be able to come together on the majestic Hudson River to enjoy nature along with social, environmental, arts & cultural programming.
Liz McEnaney, Executive Director The S.S. Columbia Project, recently spoke with NYGA: "Our plan is to bring Columbia to the Hudson River within the next 18 months and for restoration work to then begin in Kingston, New York. Once in service, Columbia will again reconnect New York City to the Hudson Valley, helping to fuel the ongoing revitalization of the River's waterfront cities and towns by catalyzing heritage and ecotourism. While underway, we will provide curriculum-based experiential learning experiences for all ages, and provide people the opportunity to get outdoors and connect to the region's natural resources."
The SS Columbia docked in Buffalo, New York.
In September 2015, the SS Columbia landed in New York State for the first time, journeying 235 miles from Toledo, Ohio to Buffalo, NY. The boat underwent a $1.6 million hull stabilization in Toledo after it was brought from Detroit. The vessel originally gave thrilled riders trips from Detroit to Boblo Island, the mouth of the Detroit River in Ontario, Canada.
After crucial restoration work in Buffalo, the Columbia will be towed up the St. Lawrence River and down the Atlantic Coast (her first dip in salt water!) before heading up the Hudson River to a shipyard in Kingston, NY. There she will be fully restored and prepared for her new home in New York City. While in Kingston, Columbia will undergo a bow-to-stern, wheelhouse-to-hull, sustainable restoration including figuring out how to green her steam engines and incorporate other green technologies such as wind and solar energy.
Once fully restored and back in service, SS Columbia will revive the grand tradition of the Hudson River excursion steamboats. Natives and tourists will have the opportunity to travel the breathtaking waterway for the day and experience the waterfront in a new way. The cultural flagship will offer educational and cultural programming both dockside in New York City as well while underway on the Hudson River.
The Main deck of the SS Columbia. Photo by Alanna St. Laurent.
The SS Columbia Project has invested many years devising a plan to return the boat to service in the Hudson River Valley. Somewhere between $10 million to $20 million will be needed to realize this goal. Phase 1 is well underway, but help is needed! Fully restoring the boat in an environmentally sustainable way requires the group to raise a minimum of $10million in capital costs. Additional funding is needed to administer the organization and develop its programming.
I am excited to think that this boat is being preserved while being transformed into a 21st century symbol of a sustainable New York. By combining history with modern technology, recreation and revitalization, Hudson River waterfront communities will be able to share memories and reconnect to an often overlooked and underutilized Hudson River.
If you want a taste of what it will be like to catch a ride on this majestic boat when it cruises the Hudson River, please look at the video below entitled "A People's History of the Columbia."
This video is a compilation of some special stories told by those who remember riding the Columbia from Detroit to Boblo Island.
Please visit the web site, SSColumbia.org, to learn more and donate
to this worthy cause.
Interior of the once grand staircase of the soon to be restored SS Columbia Steamship.