Anyone who’s been in the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce building in recent years has likely seen the replica Showboat displayed there. Made entirely of Legos, it has long impressed both children and adults alike.
The Lego Showboat headed to a new location earlier this week. Thanks to the generosity of Marty Chambers, owner of Red Barn Consignments & Antiques and a City of Lowell councilmember, the Showboat is now on display at Lowell High School. Its new home is especially fitting since it is located in the case devoted to student radio station WRWW, which goes by the name The Boat.
Showboat Replica on Loan
While the Lego Showboat has been on display at the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce for years, it was decided it might be appropriate to donate it to the 2019 Denim and Diamonds Auction held by the Lowell Rotary Club. The auction is held every two years to raise money for charitable causes, and a portion of this year’s proceeds went to help rebuild the Lowell Showboat which was damaged in a 2013 flood.
Chambers was the winner of the Lego Showboat at the auction, which also featured the sale of a variety of items that had been salvaged before the boat’s demolition. After the event, Chambers offered to take unsold Showboat items from the auction and sell them in his store, which is located in Lowell’s historic downtown. Those items have now largely sold with all proceeds going to the Rebuild the Showboat Committee.
Meanwhile, Al Eckman, advisor and station manager for WRWW, couldn’t help but notice what a perfect fit the Lego Showboat would be for the student-led radio station. He approached Chambers about the possibility of putting the replica on display at the high school. Chambers was quick to agree to loan it to the radio station and delivered the boat this past Monday.
Creating Provenance for the First Time
In a happy coincidence, the arrival of the Lego Showboat at Lowell High School coincides with the arrival of its original mastermind.
Vivi Bledsoe, an incoming freshman, was in fourth grade when she entered a contest sponsored by LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago. Standing in front of the Lowell Showboat with a sign that said #IWantToBuild, Vivi was the lucky winner who got to see her wish become reality. She traveled to Chicago, met with Master Model Builder David Howard and helped with the planning process. Then, when the Lego Showboat was completed, Vivi kept it at home for a year before donating it for display at the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.
The details and documentation of an item’s origin is known as its provenance. “If you have a provenance, that’s king,” Chambers says. As someone who specializes in antiques, Chambers says one of the most exciting parts of winning the Showboat replica has been building a provenance trail for it. It’s a rare opportunity, and Chambers says it’s the first time he’s been able to do so in his 28 years in the antiques business.
He was able to obtain the documentation needed to establish the boat’s provenance by connecting with Vivi’s mother. She happened to be in Red Barn Consignments & Antiques one day and mentioned to Chambers that it was her daughter’s boat. Since then, he has collected photographs and a written description of the boat’s origin from Vivi. That is now on display at Lowell High School along with the boat and the Rotary Auction item description.
For Chambers, it has been a gratifying experience. Not only did he have the chance to support the efforts to rebuild the Showboat with his winning auction bid, but he has helped create the provenance for a piece of Lowell’s history. Plus, he’s been able to support the student radio station WRWW by loaning them the boat for their display. All in all, he says it’s been an experience like no other.