While in Louisville this week, I had the opportunity to drive across the river and visit the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Ind.
The museum is housed in an 1890s mansion built by Edmonds Howard. He was the owner of the Howard Shipyard, which built thousands of steamboats over many decades, until the yard was taken over by the government during World War II.
The museum has an extensive collection of steamboat memorabilia, including whistles, models, photographs and many other treasures, all surrounded by the beautifully restored ornate furniture, woodwork and chandeliers of the mansion.
The director of the museum is Keith Norrington, a friend, longtime steamboat fan and, as of the beginning of 2012, author of the weekly “Old Boat” column for the Waterways Journal. Keith graciously gave me a tour of the entire museum. Below are just a few of the highlights. As always, you can click on any photo for a larger view, which I particularly recommend in this case so you can see some of the detail in the museum’s collection.
One of many beautiful chandeliers in the mansion.
Aquarium built by the shipyard workers for the Howards. Ironically, as Keith explained, even though the yard built watertight vessels, this aquarium was never able to hold water.
The railing on the grand staircase. The mansion is full of this beautiful hand-carved woodwork.
Some caulking tools used at the Howard yard to fill seems between boards in steamboat hulls.
One of the highlights of the museum is this beautifully detailed model of the steamer Indiana. The nameboard is removed to reveal the detail of the port sidewheel.
The Howard bedroom.
More of the fabulous hand-carved woodwork.
One of several desks in the museum, this has several fascinating examples of old office equipment.
Across the street is Jeffboat, the modern shipyard on the site of the old Howard Shipyard. Several barges, in varying stages of completion, can be seen.
Keith points out the high water mark from the 1937 flood, when the Ohio River was seven feet up in the house.
Display allows kids to turn the wheel and work various pedals and levels for engineroom bells.
Mississippi Queen bell in the foreground, with sternwheel shaft from the Delta Queen in the background.
The bell of the Mississippi Queen. The steamboat was built by Jeffboat in the 1970s, and just dismantled last year. The bell was preserved and brought back to Jeffersonville for permanent display.