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Goldenrod Showboat will be salvaged for a museum, says preservation group

The historic Goldenrod Showboat is currently docked near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Update 9 a.m. Wednesday: The historic Goldenrod Showboat has suffered serious structural damage that has sunk plans for its eventual return to the St. Louis riverfront, according to the  volunteer group that’s been working to preserve the landmark.

The Historic Riverboat Preservation Association announced Wednesday morning that it will salvage what it can from the boat’s interior for a riverboat museum. The showboat’s hull buckled after the vessel was moved recently. The century-old showboat has been moored in a remote spot along the Illinois River near Kampsville, Ill. 

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The historic Goldenrod Showboat has suffered serious structural damage, according to the volunteer group that’s been working to return it to the St. Louis riverfront. 

The group was meeting  Tuesday night to discuss the fate of the century-old showboat, said Hugh McPheeters, president of the nonprofit Historic Riverboat Preservation Association. 

The Goldenrod has been moored in a remote spot along the Illinois River, near Kampsville, Ill., while the group worked to raise funds to restore it. The damage occurred after the vessel was moved. The showboat, which sits atop a barge, had been listing in the river, so the barge was moved to a nearby spot that was believed to be flat. The idea was to relieve pressure on the structure. But after the river level dropped, the bow and stern were on ground, but its center was not. The hull buckled on both sides of the vessel.

Earlier this year, the group had reached an agreement to buy the showboat from its current owners, along with the riverfront acreage where it was docked. They mounted a fundraising effort and had already paid about $13,000 toward the purchase price. The group had also taken over maintenance responsibilities and the cost of insuring the vessel.

The dock owners have repeatedly threatened to sell the showboat for salvage. But Jake Medford, vice president of the preservation group, said the owners have been willing to work with the preservation group. The sale was to provide a safe harbor for the Goldenrod, while the group raised the money needed for repairs -- estimated at several millions of dollars.

The Goldenrod was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1967. It is believed to be one of the last of the floating theaters that delivered entertainment to Mississippi River towns in the early 20th century.

After her traveling days ended in 1937, the Goldenrod was moored for 50 years on the St. Louis riverfront, where it was a popular venue for live theater and ragtime music. The showboat has been dark since 2001 -- after a 12-year run as a dinner theater on the St. Charles riverfront. The showboat been “in storage” at this riverbank in Calhoun County, about 80 miles from St. Louis.

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