The Belle of Louisville: she is an icon, a legend, a true historian, and a giver of adventures. Read this week’s feature, an interview with Linda Harris, the CEO of Waterfront Development Corporation/Belle of Louisville.
It was recently announced that the Belle's engines are getting replaced. Elaborate some more on that for our audience.
“When the Belle was built in 1914, steamboats only had a life span of 3-5 years. Engines from another steamboat were put on her, and they were used at that time. We have never been able to identify what boat they came from but the brass plate on the end of the engines has ‘Pittsburg, Pa” without the ‘h’ on Pittsburgh. That dates them back to the 1880’s. Twenty years ago the Smithsonian Institute requested these engines for the Transportation Museum, but it looks like they may have another 100 years to wait.”
What other exciting plans are in the future for Belle of Louisville?
“As some ladies seem to do with age, she has put on a little too much weight. Since we had the Belle thoroughly surveyed by national known Marine Architects five years ago, her only problem was weight. We have worked on removing things that will lighten her up. For instance her two iron sewage tanks were replaced with poly propylene. Her raised ballroom stage was removed and we found that it was three stages built on top of each other; this removed nearly 2,000 pounds from her. We will continue to replace heavy equipment with lighter versions. Her paddlewheel should be sitting a little higher in the water – we have put all crew members on diets.”
100 years is a long time, and a lot of work has gone into keeping the Belle going. How difficult will it be to get another 100 years out of her?
“She only needs the continued love and care she received her first 100 years to keep her going for another 100 years. She may be known as a high maintenance woman – but worth it!”
What else would the public like to know about the future of Belle of Louisville?
“Being the only authentic steamboat left from America’s great steamboat era, guarding her future will be critical for generations to come. Her steel hull is inspected every five years and any weak areas are replaced with new steel plating – she should remain afloat for as long as she is properly cared for. Another critical part of the Belle is that she is a wooden vessel making her ultra-sensitive to fire – in that regard, she has become a non-smoking boat and no candles or open flames can be onboard. She is guarded 24/7 to avoid any tragedies like her near sinking in August 1997.”
Are there any other special plans in the works for the next 100 years?
“We would like to move her bar area to the side, opening up viewing windows for passengers to enjoy watching the deckhands working the ropes when launching and docking her, the same way they did 100 years ago; it’s quite an interesting site. Someday there are thoughts of a galley barge that would allow us to do our own food catering providing another profit center for her operation.”
“The Belle is a living, operating museum. She has no modern navigation features; she is pure steam powered and paddlewheel propelled. She is something that is rare at 100 years old.”
The future is definitely bright for our Belle of Louisville.
Cover photo courtesy of Belle of Louisville