Since 2008, the 1927 built sternwheel steamboat Delta Queen has been tied to a dock in Chattanooga, Tennessee, serving as a hotel. Now, with luck and a considerable investment, the old steamboat may be returning to the rivers to carry passengers once again. This weekend, she will be slipping her lines on the way to a major restoration. Her new owner, New Orleans businessman Cornel Martin, is arranging to have the steamboat moved to undergo a $5 million reconstruction. From a press release posted on their the Delta Queen Facebook page:
“My partners and I are thrilled to be taking this critical first step toward the preservation and restoration of this important piece of American and river history,” said Cornel Martin, President and CEO of Delta Queen Steamboat Company. “We look forward to the day when the Delta Queen will once again be able to ply America’s waterways and allow passengers to relive the experiences of Mark Twain and his unique cast of river characters from the decks of a true 1927 steamboat.”
The Delta Queen is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is classified as a National Historic Landmark. The steamboat has also recently been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a National Treasure.
“Our goal is to have the Delta Queen return to cruising America’s waterways in 2016 following extensive mechanical and hotel renovations,” said Martin.
The steamboat will also require a legal exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations. She had been operating under rolling two to four year exemptions from 1996 to 2007. Legislation to allow the ship to continue operating was blocked by two Senators just after Christmas. On March 6th, Congressman Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, OH reintroduced legislation to allow the historic steamboat to operate.