The historic riverboat has been nominated to become one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Landing on the exclusive annual list could save the steamboat from likely decay.
The 82-year-old sternwheeler is scheduled to shut down because Congress has refused to grant another exemption from a federal law that bans more than 50 overnight passengers on boats that are largely made of wood. The exemption expired Oct. 31.
Owners say the boat, which can carry 176 overnight passengers, can’t survive financially if it can only carry 50 passengers.
So Don Clare, a member of the Boone County (Ohio) Historic Preservation Review Board, nominated the Delta Queen for inclusion on the list compiled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The list raises awareness of preservation efforts.
Sites must meet three criteria — historical significance, urgently threatened and possible solutions — in order to qualify for the list.
In a news release, Clare noted the boat’s place in history and its current predicament in his nomination. However, one nomination doesn’t ensure that the boat will land in the top 11, and Delta Queen supporters must second the nomination.
Mason County showed its support of the historic steamboat last year with a Save the Delta Queen Rally in September. In addition, a large crowd paid tribute to the boat and came to see the Delta Queen leave the Point Pleasant Riverfront Park on perhaps its final visit in October.
The Delta Queen’s 10 stops to Point Pleasant in 2008 drew crowds that wanted to catch a glimpse at the riverboat, which is a staple of area history. The Save the Delta Queen Rally signified the importance of the Delta Queen to a small river town, and the rally’s goal was to inspire people to contact Congress representatives to have them vote to save the historic steamboat.
During the rally, Onboard Historian Bill Wiemuth told the sea of supporters that the Delta Queen loves stopping in Point Pleasant as well as other Ohio River towns and hopes to continue to do so.
In October, the steamboat’s farewell saw the Delta Queen crew paying tribute to the citizens of Point Pleasant. Mayor Leonard “Buster” Riffle along with other city officials were given a tour of the vessel. In addition, the Delta Queen’s captain presented Riffle with a Delta Queen steam whistle salute award.
Built in 1926, the Delta Queen is the last operational overnight steam-powered sternwheeler in the United States. It has four teak decks and accommodates 174 passengers, all in outside staterooms.
The Delta Queen was locally owned from 1946 to 1985 and Cincinnati — once America’s busiest inland port — was its home. The boat was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
It will spend the winter in New Orleans while its owner, Majestic America Line, looks for a buyer. The steamer is tied up next to her younger sister, the Mississippi Queen, which is being dismantled.
Previous endangered lists have included the cottage in Washington, D.C., where Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the wall of architectural masterpieces lining the west side of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.
The trust began the list in 1988 with the intent of creating a top-10 lineup, but the jury deadlocked at 11 due to an influx of worthy candidates.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)