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Greene Line Wharfboat in Covington

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    Greene Line Wharfboat in Covington

    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 party boats 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.
    Attached Files

    #2
    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.

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      #3
      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!

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        #4
        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.

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          #5
          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.

          Comment


            #6
            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.

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              #7
              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 columns...free-span 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.

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                #8
                Siren Song

                Jim,

                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.

                Comment


                  #9
                  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.

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                    #10
                    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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                      #11
                      Shipyard, here is the photo of Capt. Mac on the Greene Line wharfboat, plus several others I found in my file folder of GL wharfboat memorabilia.

                      (1) Capt. L.A. McMurtry at the wharfboat entrance door - 1960's.
                      (2) Capt. Mac's museum aboard the wharfboat - April 30, 1954 - Note roof bell of GORDON C. GREENE, railing from CHRIS GREENE, whistles, lanterns, etc.
                      (3) Wharfboat move to Covington - Dorothea Frye and Ethel Walker on bank. Johnston's party boat and sternwheel towboat "The Captain" in midstream.
                      Attached Files

                      Comment


                        #12
                        And here are some sad old faded images of the Greene Line wharfboat sunk. The first one was taken on Sunday, October 27, 1968, the day after the sinking. The newspaper said a reporter saw a gangplank ripped off as towboats were moving the wharfboat to Sycamore Shores Marina. The wharfboat went down in 25 feet of water and the loss was estimated at $15,000. Although many things had been removed prior to the move, Dorothea Frye said that she was told later that a number of cartons of the framed reproduction of her DQ night scene painting -- that sold in the gift shop for $2 -- were still in the hull. Dorothea related this and other stories about the wharfboat's demise when she, Judy and I had lunch aboard the Fore & Aft Restaurant in July, 1999, near where the wharfboat went down.

                        The GREENE LINE STEAMERS emblazoned across the roof of the wharboat on both sides was originally painted by Capt. Jesse P. Hughes.
                        Attached Files

                        Comment


                          #13
                          On December 5, 1936, The Waterways Journal reported:

                          NEW GREENE LINE WHARFBOAT

                          Cincinnati has a new wharfboat built for the Greene Line on a hull of six steel barges by the Dravo Contracting Company. It is 360 feet long and 76 foot beam, and will hold 6,000 tons of freight, or enough for several sternwheelers of the usual Ohio River type. The wharfboat, anchored by stout chains, which can be taken up as the river rises and let out as it falls, provides a bridge of elastic length between the shore and navigable waters. It is at once an office, a waiting room for passengers, a warehouse and a forum for the roustabouts.


                          The photo was taken shortly after the new wharfboat arrived from Pittsburgh and was not yet completed in January, 1937, a short time before the BIG flood! The TOM GREENE and CHRIS GREENE are in the distance along with another of the Greene Line boats.
                          Attached Files

                          Comment


                            #14
                            OK, how did it end up on the Madison waterfront? Didn't someone buy the wreck for scrap? Was it taken there in pieces? Guess I'll have to call Doc for the answer.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Keith: Many thanks for sending these photos. The Greene Line Wharf was always looked for when, as a kid, I crossed the Suspension Bridge on a steetcar. I well remember, later, seeing the "museum" but was never able to muster the courage to mount those stairs. Can you read the caption on the photo of Cap'n Mac? I cannot. In another view of the wharfboat, you can see what we called the "Central Bridge" in the background. I always thought that it was the prettiest bridge of the local bunch...not as historic as the Suspension Bridge, but a real beauty. Alas, it too is gone now. Cap'n Walnut.

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