Two hundred years ago, steamboats served practically every Hudson River community. Learn about the vision to restore one to active service.
Richard Anderson, President of the S.S. Columbia Project, tells the story of steamboating on the Hudson River and the work being done to restore the National Historic Landmark vessel SS Columbia, America’s oldest surviving passenger steamer, for active service on the Hudson River. “Steamships on the Hudson” on Saturday, June 18 at 7 PM at Beczak Environmental Education Center. $10 / $5 for students, seniors and teachers. For information contact firstname.lastname@example.org, (914) 377-1900 x 12. Beczak Environmental Education Center, 35 Alexander Street, Yonkers, NY 10701. www.beczak.org
The Hudson River was the cradle of American steamboating. From the first successful commercial voyage of Robert Fulton’s Clermont in 1807 through the retirement of the Alexander Hamilton in 1971, these boats were an integral part of the life along the Hudson. Whether it was a huge 400-foot side-wheeler, a small freight boat, excursion boats or a ferry crossing, practically every Hudson River community was served by a steamboat.
Richard Anderson, Founding President of the SS Columbia Project notes, “Sadly, all of the great Hudson River steamers have been lost to us. We were fortunate to find the Columbia in Detroit. She is the oldest surviving passenger steamship in America and we are working to restore her to active service on the Hudson River.”
"We hope that the ship's restoration will help revitalize the communities of the Hudson River Valley and will re-invigorate our experience of the region's beautiful riverscapes that can be best experienced from the water. SS Columbia will serve as an amazing experiential educational resource where school kids can watch the great steam engines at work, and her ballroom and beautiful public spaces will serve as a floating cultural center for the communities of the Hudson River Valley."
“Much like Walkway over the Hudson and the High Line were dreams only a few short years ago, the Columbia represents another dream that can be brought to reality,” says Anderson.
The S.S. Columbia was built in 1902 and has been designated by the Federal Government as a National Historic Landmark vessel. Her interior is adorned with mahogany paneling, etched and leaded glass, gilded moldings, a grand staircase, and an innovative open-air ballroom. Her designers also created three of the greatest Hudson River steamships: the Hendrick Hudson, Washington Irving, and the Robert Fulton.
At first glance S.S. Columbia is a dauntingly majestic ruin with her four stories of crumbling decks and rusty tall stack towering over the dock. But looking past the peeling
paint, rot, and decay, you notice her beautiful lines. She sways in the water like an aging River Queen recalling her days of glory. She is now 109 years old and is being prepared for the make over of her life.
At present, Columbia is in Detroit and is being prepared for her trip to New York. Her asbestos has been abated and the superstructure is being stabilized. When she is sufficiently restored she will be towed through the Great Lakes, out the St Lawrence, and down the coast to New York.
SS Columbia Project Founding President Richard Anderson grew up in Brooklyn Heights overlooking the waters of NY harbor and the Hudson River. At age 10 he began his career as a maritime preservationist by volunteering at the South Street Seaport Museum. Richard worked in banking overseas and returned to New York to direct the programs of a contemporary art gallery where he enjoyed helping to launch the careers of emerging artists. Today Richard spearheads the restoration of SS Columbia and in his off-hours enjoys the beauty of the Hudson Valley from his home in the Village of Nyack.