Louisville has become known for an annual boat race featuring the Belle of Louisville and the Spirit of Jefferson. Indeed these vessels are notable landmarks in the downtown area of the city, and more than that their casual sport icons in the area. As dependable as not being able to get through spaghetti junction during rush hour these ships hearken back to a simpler time in our city’s history.
Classified as a steamer ship the Bell of Louisville has become notable enough that’s it’s become a national historic landmark in its own right. And, for good reason acting as a working craft for 98 years now the Belle still calls to people of all varieties with the “old timey” music the ship plays when docked which has become so associated with the Belle. In fact, it’s the oldest operating Mississippi style steamboat across the globe.
The impact of the ship is hard to ignore as it was the main source of travel for years across the Ohio River.
Despite the boat’s current name it wasn’t actually constructed in River City but rather in Pittsburgh where it was dubbed Idlewild. The ship moved to Cincinnati in the 1940’s and adopted a new moniker the Avalon. Soon enough the ship had become one of the most used in the country.
Unfortunately in the early ‘60’s the ship was showing its age and it went up for auction, and sure enough a Jefferson County Judge, Marlow Cook bought the vessel moving it south to the city of Louisville.
After a great deal of work went into repairing the classic style boat, the Belle finally found its current home and name.
Meanwhile the younger Spirit of Jefferson was built in Iowa in 1963, the new boat made its way to New Orleans where it was called the Mark Twain. In 1970, she made her way north to St. Louis where her name’s theme deviate as she was dubbed the Huck Finn. Then, in 1995 the craft pulled into Louisville being purchased by Jefferson County- the rest is history.
Image courtesy of Belle of Louisville