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Shipyard Sam 10-03-2009 03:22 PM

Greene Line Wharfboat in Covington
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Going through Cliff's shoebox collection of "stuff", at the Rabbit hash Shipyard, we found this 1968 print of the Greene Line Steamers wharfboat tied up in Covington, KY where it was moved for the construction of that hideous cement stadium that pundits enjoyed calling "Paul Bunyan's Toilet Bowl". Thankfully, that eyesore was imploded after disgracing the Cincinnati waterfront for too many years.

The wharfboat is partially seen at the extreme right on the far shore. The excursion boat fleet below the Roebling Suspension Bridge predates Bernstein's BB Riverboats, and may contain some of Cap'n Johnson's [I]party boats[/I] and Bill Marck's MARCK TWAIN that may have found its way to Captain Bill Bowell's operation in St. Paul, after Marck sold out. The DELTA QUEEN did not land alongside the wharfboat while either was in town, but Queenie used Schmidt Playfield, in the eastside of Cincinnati, as her alternate landing site. That was a good location, as I recall, and much easier to access than the Foot of Broadway Street site, especially after Bunyan's Bowl was completed and the DELTA QUEEN returned downtown to a much-reduced and over-crowded Public Landing.

Tom Schiffer 10-03-2009 03:37 PM

Sam: Interesting photo! That long flat building in Covington is the IRS Center. This was taken well before the changes to the Suspension Bridge. Any idea from what vantage point this photo was taken? Mt Adams with a telephoto lens?? Too far east for the Carew Tower. Does anyone know the name of the buyer and subsequent owners and their intentions for it? Seems to me that it did not last long before sinking, but not in Covington as I recall. Cap'n Walnut.

Keith Norrington 10-05-2009 11:18 AM

Cap'n Walnut: I dimly recollect that the old Greene Line wharfboat was sold to somebody who intended to use it for a marina. The late Dorothea Frye told me of watching the operation when the dilapidated wharfboat was moved over to Covington. Despite admonitions that it might sink, Betty Blake and a few other hardy souls made the trip across the river -- wearing life jackets!

I'll check my files as I think I have some news clippings about the sinking, which happened in late 1968, perhaps in the vicinity of Anderson's Ferry ??? I was last aboard the wharfboat in September, 1967, shortly after the arrival of the SHOWBOAT MAJESTIC and towboat I.U. (ATTABOY) from Jeffersonville, upon which both vessels were temporarily tied up to the stern of the wharfboat. It was an awesome structure and made spooky sounds as it creaked and groaned. I was especially interested in Capt. McMurtry's "museum" between the stairways that led up to the offices. Capt. Mac had all kinds of "steamboat stuff" on display there from the Greene Line boats -- gingerbread trim, whistles, ring buoys, nameboards, lanterns, etc. It was pure "catnip" for a 13 year old afire with the steamboat fever!

Frank X. Prudent 10-05-2009 11:56 AM

My guess is that the pic was snapped from an upper floor of, what was then called, the First National Bank Building on the south east corner of Fourth and Walnut. Now, I think it's been redubbed the Clopay Building.

Shipyard Sam 10-05-2009 12:44 PM

Cap'n Mac
Probably a good guess.

Captain McMurtry was indeed a most interesting gentleman. He had been the Master of some of the Greene Line steamboats, I recall. Rand Cochran, Enquirer photographer and a fav of Ca'n Betty's, took a prize-winning portrait of Cap'n Mac, smoking his pipe and seated at the entrance to the wharfboat; taking a break during a painting session onboard. Big dollops of white paint on Mac's coveralls heightened the artistic interest of the photograph. I wouldn't be surprised if a copy of that celebrated pic lurks in someone's great big collection of steamboat stuff. I'd love to see it again.

Jim Blum 10-05-2009 06:11 PM

it sank not too far below the old lock at Fernbank. I believe it was to be used for a restaurant or boat harbor about where the Fore and Aft restaurant ended up and then sinking in more recent times. I believe the stage(s) ran thru the side as they were trying to land it. Not an authority here, just a somewhat dim memory. I do believe 1968 being the correct year. Now to hear from the experts.

Tom Schiffer 10-05-2009 07:18 PM

Jim, et al: 1968 seems about right. I was on the wharf boat several times but never had any business there. In retrospect I wonder how that big roof was framed. That is a longish span (width of wharf) at over 50 feet without any roof. Musta been a zillion rafters up there. Seems to me that was a corrugated iron roof...not very light in my book. Anybody know? Pulling it in and sparring it out had to be a real chore. Was the wharf boat yet another product of the fertile brain of Jesse Hughes? Cap'n Walnut.

Shipyard Sam 10-05-2009 08:10 PM

Siren Song

You should remember:

That old GLS wharf boat ended up in Madison, Indiana, sunk right below where we landed in 1971. Cap rode down on the boat as the MATE (!!) and I was the Captain. The only time Big Cap "worked" for me. When the Mate (you?) arrived, Wagner got off, but when I tried to get the boat twisted out into the swift current, it set back down toward all the twisted steel of the wharf boat. I kept it off the iron reef, but I did what was best even though it may cost me some pride, and I asked Cap to come back aboard and get the boat cocked out into the current so we could get out of there.

He did, and by time he had the DELTA QUEEN twisted around, the stage was about three feet off the bank, and poor ole Cap had to wade ashore in his new brown leather shoes, yellow suit, and unblocked, flat brim hat he wore Indian-style. I still feel bad for him, but if I hadn't used prudence over pride, I shutter to think of what could have happened and I still grimace as I remember looking down at that twisted steel maul beckoning its siren song.

Bill Judd 10-05-2009 09:13 PM

Jim's right it sank at mile 483.7, just below old lock 37 at Fernbank. Those six (6) sand flats under that huge structure each decided to go their seperate ways. Date was October 26, 1968. The sad owner was Sycamore Shores Marine.

Jim Blum 10-05-2009 10:52 PM

Under the upriver end of the Wharfboat (the office end) the barge, or one of the barges had a cofferdam built into it as it apparently had a propensity to leak rather badly. The memory is pretty rough on this but I do remember hearing about it.

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