Final phase of work on riverboat set for 2018 completion
Just below the Washington Street Bridge a national historic treasure is under the final phase of years worth of renovations with hopes of completion before its centennial birthday.
“This is basically dealing with the interior,” explained Bill Reynolds, the historian of the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums, where the W. P. Snyder is open for public tours. “We want the W.P. Snyder to look like it did when the boat came to Marietta in 1955, like the crew just walked off the boat.”
The Snyder turns 100 next year and if all goes to plan, it will have new coats of paint, table and quarters staging, a shining boiler room, engine room and pilot house by the new year.
The boat will not have to leave Marietta for this phase of work, as it did for two previous phases. For Phase I, the Snyder was missing for its Muskingum River home for nearly a year. Again for Phase II in 2013, it had to go elsewhere for work for about seven months.
But tours will still continue through the end of September and by request for groups throughout the remainder of this year if the Ohio River Museum is given enough notice.
“We just need time to alert the crews working on painting so that we can coordinate,” said Reynolds.
The boat was built in 1918 by James Rees and Sons and was first called the W.H. Clingerman before a name change and major renovation in 1937 when it was dubbed the J.L. Perry.
“In 1937 it went through a huge remodeling with a hull widening by three feet,” explained Fred Smith, the manager of Architectural Services for the Ohio History
Connection. “They made the boiler bigger so that she could compete with the diesel boats and could tow more coal barges.”
Then in 1945 the boat was once again renamed the A-1 before its final name change later that year when Crucible Steel purchased the steam-powered boat and named it the W.P. Snyder Jr.
The boat was decommissioned in 1955 and by the efforts of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen group, the boat was donated to the State of Ohio and remains the only boat of its kind still in existence.
“It’s a ‘pool boat,’ meaning it was built primarily to move coal between the dams on big rivers,” said Reynolds. “This was a working boat and we want to preserve that history and show what it would have looked like, from the living quarters to the dinner table, how those who worked on these boats would have lived.”
This final phase will complete more than 10 years of major projects funded predominantly through grants and donations with some state capital matching funds.
Phase I began in 2005 and was completed in 2010 at a total cost of $1,468,000, and replaced the hull of the boat.
Phase II was completed in 2014 for a total cost of $958,000 and completed major work on the main and boiler decks. Phase III has been underway for a few weeks with the roofs replaced and now interior paint to go up before period-staging begins.
For the first phase the state input was $876,000, the second saw a $222,000 contribution from the state and this third phase will only see $42,200 coming from the state capital fund of a $503,200 project. The remaining $140,800 local match is funded through private donations and local grants to the project while two major grants fund the other $320,220.
“It’s amazing to see that people really care about this boat,” said Smith. “And we’re trying to be responsible with the state dollars to make sure they stretch far…That takes a lot of hard work and creativity from our development office to pursue these grants.”
The grants covering the $320,220 are a National Maritime Heritage Grant through the National Parks Service (100,000) and a Historic Transportation Methods Grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives program ($220,220).
At a glance
¯ The W.P. Snyder Jr. will soon sport the colors it wore in the 1950s before it was decommissioned and docked in Marietta in 1955.
Work to come:
¯ Metalwork on the bulkheads.
¯ Painting within the quarters, engine room, boiler room and pilot house.
¯ Painting on the deck and paddlewheel.
¯ Staging of lifestyle items from the early1930s through 1950s.
¯ The work is projected to be complete before the boat’s 100th birthday celebration in 2018.
How to help:
¯ To donate items connected to the Snyder or to Ohio history contact Cliff Eckle, curator of history at 614-298-2053.
¯ To donate money for renovations and restoration work for the boat send a check to Ohio History Connection Development Office at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH, 43211.
Source: Bill Reynolds and Fred Smith.