The towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. was welcomed home by area residents this past weekend only to learn the historic vessel may be leaving Marietta again for more work after it was awarded a $736,000 grant.
The 92-year-old boat arrived back at Marietta on Friday after undergoing a 10-month, $1.4 million renovation. A new hull and paddle wheel were installed on the Snyder as a part of that project. The new work would focus on making improvements above the waterline on the boat, according to museum officials.
"She's looking pretty weather-worn and really needs a lot of work," said Kim Schuette, spokeswoman for the Ohio Historical Society, who oversees the local Ohio River Museum where the boat is kept as part of a permanent display. "The goal is to get the Snyder into ship-shape for the public to visit and tour."
The grant announcement was made Saturday during a welcome celebration for the boat at the river museum. Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland announced the grant award, which is being funded through the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Fundraising for the last project took several years, with the money ultimately coming from private donations, a state appropriation and a grant from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures program.
"The work we just had done was the major surgery, and was money well spent," said Jeff Spear, president of the Sons & Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen. "The second-phase will not take nearly as long, but much of the work will have to be done out-of-town."
ERIN O'NEILL The Marietta Times
The restoration project will focus on the boat's superstructure and include the replacement of its electrical system, Spear said. Additionally, the crew quarters of the boat will be restored to show what the boat looked like when it was last used as a towboat in 1955. The Snyder, built in 1918, towed barges loaded with coal, iron and steel along the Ohio River and its tributaries.
In 1955, the Crucible Steel Company of America donated the boat to the Ohio Historical Society, after a request by the Pioneer Rivermen. The boat arrived in Marietta in September of that year, which was the last time it operated under its own power, according to the historical society.
The vessel is the only remaining steam-powered, sternwheeled towboat still afloat, and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
A local match of $222,000 will still need to be raised in order for the grant to come though. Also, the Ohio Historical Society is seeking an additional $245,000 to fund an endowment for ongoing maintenance of the Snyder.
Schuette said a fundraising campaign will get under way in the coming months to cover the cost of the local match. She said the group is hoping to raise nearly double the local match to start an endowment fund to cover ongoing maintenance of the boat.
"Boats require a lot of maintenance, especially one as old as her," Schuette said.