Monday, July 14, 2014

The Fate of the Mamie S. Barrett


About 17 miles downriver from Natchez, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, the rusty, vine-covered hulk of an abandoned steamboat rests in the shade of an old cottonwood tree near the small community of Deer Park, Louisiana, just a few yards away from a cut-off of the river. 


It is truly a sight to behold, and when I saw it for the first time, it took my breath away.


The old steamer, known as the “Mamie S. Barrett,” was built in 1921, and its “claim to fame” occurred in 1942, when it proudly served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s headquarters as he toured and inspected the Mississippi River.
Through the years, the “Mamie” has been used as a towboat, a clubhouse and restaurant for a yacht club, a touring vessel, an attraction at a resort on a Kentucky lake, and was even owned by a Gulf Coast casino management company.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 28, 1983.


In 1987, the riverboat was purchased by John and Mary Hosemann, and was brought to Vicksburg, Mississippi, on November 5th of that year. She was converted to a showboat with a 120-seat theater on the main deck and a restaurant on the second deck.  She remained in Vicksburg until 1991.

The following picture  shows how the "Mamie" looked in 1921, and in 1983, when she was docked at Vicksburg.



The “Mamie” was eventually moved to Vidalia, Louisiana Dock and Storage, opposite Natchez, and in the mid-1990s, she was taken to the cut-off at Deer Park, some 17 miles downriver from Natchez.
She has remained there ever since … a 146-foot shell of a steamboat which once carried a President, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places … fated to become yet another piece of history, abandoned and forgotten, rapidly deteriorating and surrendering to the ravages of time and weather.


 

To read a more detailed account of the story of the “Mamie S. Barrett,” you can visit Steamboats.org at Mamie S. Barrett.

And to read about plans for its restoration, visit Historic Sternwheeler Preservation.

4 comments:

Stacey said...

Aw, it's a shame she's parked out in the pasture now. Looks like she could be restored for some purpose or another.

Carolyn said...

What a beautiful old boat. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos.

Beth said...

What a shame to let such a grand lady sit and crumble! You really captured her condition in these pictures as well as her "personality."

racheld said...

What poignant pictures of a time not-to-far-ago gone by. This is even more saddening than the wreckage of the Sprague, somehow---this place of celebration and joy and music, all rusted and broken and gouged, like a forlorn tenement, lived in by wanderers, then smashed and vandalized by a hyena-pack of twitchy-fingered idiots with nothing else to destroy at that moment.

It could have come from Hell's Kitchen or the Bowery or Watts at its nadir, set down amongst the first trees of its life, and left to melt into the ground. What a waste, and what a shame. It's as if you happened upon an ancient battle-site, and photographed the marauded wreckage of the enemy's stronghold, rather than the bright, spanking-painted glory of a place of celebration and fun.

The years could not have destroyed such a gem in so short a time---there were willing, uncaring hands involved, stripping and smashing and enjoying the chaos, just for a giggle on a boring afternoon.

What a sad, tragic story it tells for all of us. Those shattered, empty eyes say it all, and you've captured its battle-scarred, still-flickering soul.