The historic Delta Queen, a one-of-a-kind authentic overnight union-crewed river steamboat is one step closer to becoming a reality, following the passage of authorization legislation in the U.S. Senate.
After years of failed attempts, the U.S. Senate voted 85-12 on legislation sponsored by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) to waive the safety standards against wooden ships carrying more than 50 passengers overnight — as long as the vessels can meet new requirements and pass an annual inspection by the Coast Guard. The measure now goes to the House.
If those changes are enacted, the 1920s-era Delta Queen will resume trips along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, docking in 80 ports including historic Kimmswick, MO, in Jefferson County.
That’s exciting news for the Seafarers International Union and St. Louis Port Council, which has lobbied for passage of the legislation.
“We are supporting the legislation and we look forward to seeing the Delta Queen back on the rivers,” said Jordan Biscardo, communications director for the Seafarers International Union.
The Queen now needs the same authorization from the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Getting the Delta Queen sailing again will bring an infusion of jobs and economic growth to Jefferson County, and will allow tourists to once again enjoy the rich history and heritage of an iconic Missouri landmark,” McCaskill said.
Blunt called the Delta Queen a “remarkable part of our nation’s history,” and said restoring it to full operation will “create jobs, support economic growth, and enhance our state’s tourism industry.”
LAST OF ITS KIND
The Queen is the only remaining authentic overnight river steamboat still in operable condition. The 176-passenger overnight steamboat plied the inland waterways for 85 years before ending operations in 2008. Bankruptcy forced the boat into new ownership, which turned the vessel into a dockside hotel in Chattanooga, TN. That only lasted a few years.
Designated a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Delta Queen is considered the most celebrated steamboat in American history.
Once back in service, it’s estimated that the boat will create 170 new union jobs and provide the region with a $36 million annual economic boost.
Kimmswick, which will serve as the Delta Queen’s port and headquarters is already preparing for the paddle-wheeler’s return.
Port of Call, a new restaurant featuring a 100-percent union staff – members of the Seafarers Entertainment Trades and Allied Union – opened late last year.
The log cabin restaurant building dates to 1772 and was moved to Kimmswick from Arnold, MO. The building served as a work retreat for General Ulysses S. Grant before he became the 18th president of the United States, and famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey did broadcasts from it.
Port of Call is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It’s located at 6035 Second Street in Kimmswick. For reservations call 636-223-7170.