This past Thursday, February 28 a local icon was removed from the Riverwalk. The Showboat, the fifth such boat constructed for the city, was taken down. January 2017 was the last time people were allowed on the boat. It was closed to the public due to safety concerns. Shortly after the closure, the Rebuild the Showboat Committee fielded questions and input from the community.
In June 2017 the city received funds from the state totaling $1 million. In January 2018, more detailed plans were coming together. And in December 2018 the committee had a joint meeting with City Council to discuss taking the old boat down and final fundraising for a new boat. However, an additional $1.3 million was secured from the state early January of this year following an announcement during a City Council meeting. This leaves a minimal amount compared to what was first anticipated left to raise in order to complete the project.
The Lowell Rotary Club will hold an auction the end of April which will in part benefit fundraising needs for a new showboat. Enough funds have already been secured to warrant talking with builders. While a formal proposal needs to be brought before City Council, a build time of approximately 33 weeks is anticipated once construction begins. Provided the process continues to run smoothly, a new boat should be in place sometime in 2020.
The old boat was taken down after some parts of the boat were taken off to be made available during the upcoming Rotary Auction. The majority of the boat was in disrepair and not able to be saved. The boat was taken down to the deck and the paddle wheel remains. The Blough family will be taking the paddle and the deck and pontoons on which the boat sat will be removed when the weather is nicer.
The new boat will be named the Lowell Showboat, which was determined in August 2017 when the Robert E. Lee name was taken off the vessel. It was determined that the boat should be taken down while the river was still frozen so that pieces could easily be retrieved rather than sinking or floating down the Flat River. Look for additional information regarding a timeline for construction of a new boat in the coming months. Until a new boat is in place the void on the Flat River will be noticeable. The new boat project will be an improvement, ensuring future generations have their version of the showboat with which to create memories.
When the demolition of the old boat began and throughout the day there was an atmosphere of a reunion. People with ties to the boat shared stories with each other. Some community members reflected upon their graduating class being on the boat, visiting Santa, or listening to performers entertain from the boat.
Earthworm Dozing and Excavating took on the tear down of the boat. It took between six and seven hours to complete the demo. Taking down of the wheelhouse was the most difficult part, mainly because it was the hardest to reach. The rest of the operation consisted of carefully pulling apart chunks of the boat and placing debris into trucks to be hauled away. The heavy machine was operated with ease with little debris falling along the sidewalk. Snow was placed beneath the treads to provide a barrier of sorts to protect the cement walkway.
Below are photos and video taken throughout the demolition of the the showboat. The first video is what we shared on our Facebook page last Thursday.