BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A historic steamship is getting new life in the Queen City. Work continues to restore the SS Columbia, which will eventually become a cultural venue on the Hudson River.
The 114-year-old boat is a last-of-its-kind passenger steamship, designed by the same architect who built the SS Canadiana, the steamship which took people back and forth from Crystal Beach.
The SS Columbia served much the same function, from the time it was built in 1902 until it was taken out of service in 1991. This ship, which is now a national historic landmark, took people to an amusement park near Detroit.
The SS Columbia Project is working to fully restore the ship to its former glory.
The boat arrived in Buffalo in September 2015, and crews got to work stabilizing her. “We did quite a bit of work on the hull while we were in a shipyard in Toledo, and now we’re concentrating on fixing some of the structural members within the superstructure, to prepare her for her tow to New York City,” explained Ann Loeding, the port captain and restoration coordinator.
Eventually, the SS Columbia will be moved to Kingston, New York, for the final phase of her restorations, which will see the inside refurbished. After that, the ship will be able to cruise up and down the Hudson, as an unique day excursion vessel. “The idea is that this boat will be brought to life as a new cultural venue, a floating platform for the arts, education, and entertainment,” Liz McEnaney, the executive director of the S.S. Columbia Project, said.
While she’s in Buffalo, the SS Columbia is already serving that purpose. A site-specific performing arts piece, called Burden, will be done by Torn Space Theater in Silo City and aboard the ship this weekend, beginning Thursday night. Tickets are still available.
Public tours of the ship are also scheduled for this weekend, but those sold out quickly.
The executive director of the SS Columbia Project says the group hopes to offer more tours soon. She advises people to keep checking the SS Columbia Project website for details on upcoming tours when they become available.
You can also make a donation through the SS Columbia Project website to help complete the restorations. The total cost of the project is estimated at around $18 million.
News 4’s Katie Alexander got to tour the Columbia Thursday morning, before it’s opened to the public this weekend. Click on the videos below to see different areas of the ship.