Belle of Louisville

Louisville, KY

The Belle of Louisville was originally built as Idlewild in 1914 by James Rees & Sons of Pittsburgh, PA, for the Memphis Packet Co.. She left Pittsburgh for Memphis, TN, on January 9, 1915. In February, 1928, she was sold to the New St. Louis & Calhoun Country Packet Co., Hardin, IL. In April, 1947, she was again sold to J. Herod Gorsage, Peoria, IL. There she got her second name Avalon in February, 1948. She was sold in 1950 to the Steamer Avalon Inc. of Cincinnati, OH, to serve as excursion boat. In 1962 the boat was sold to Jefferson County Fiscal Court and renamed Belle of Louisville, based in Louisville, KY.

On April 31, 1963, the Belle of Louisville ran a staged race against the Delta Queen and lost. Since then this race is an annual event which is taking place a few days prior to the Kentucky Derby. Due to the bankruptcy of the parental company of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., the Americal Classical Voyages, in October, 2001, there won´t be that race in 2002. The MV Belle of Cincinnati will take the place of the Delta Queen. But the race will be on in 2003.

In 1968 the Belle of Louisville was extensively rebuilt at Jeffboat Inc. of Jeffersonville, IN. Her hull was lengthened to 191´2´´.

Belle of Louisville at Louisville, KY, on the Ohio River 

The Belle of Louisville had 3 steam operated calliopes and one air-operated. The first was installed in April, 1924, at Memphis, TN. This one was built by Thomas J. Nichols as one of the famous "Three Sisters", one can be found on the Delta Queen. The calliope was sold seperately in the 1962 auction of the boat. The buyer was Capt. Gabriel Chengary, actual head master of the Delta Queen. The next one was the air-operated calliope donated by William J. Smock, built by Kozat. In April, 1966, Earnest J. Wilde constructed another steam operated calliope for the Belle of Louisville with a brass and copper keyboard and 32 whistles. The instrument caused many problems and many parts had to be changed. In the early 1980´s the whistles came to their end. On April 18, 1988, new whistles were installed made by David Morecraft of Peru, IN, who was building replicas of the Thomas J. Nichols steam calliopes.

In 1997 the Belle of Louisville nearly was lost because of an open fresh water valve. But she was raised again and still offers cruises at Louisville.

The Belle of Louisville and her sister boat the Spirit of Jefferson have her own homepage or

donations welcome