Showboat Goldenrod History

The Goldenrod

A look at the past, present, and future of America’s last remaining showboat
by Ashley Weber, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
April 23, 2003

Thanks very much to Ashley Weber for allowing us to publish her paper about the Goldenrod.

This paper will recount the story of the Goldenrod, the most splendid of showboat that have traveled the great rivers of the Midwest. The Goldenrod is the oldest riverboat in the nation and the last surviving original Mississippi River Basin showboat in existence. Regrettably, this is a story told in two parts. The first is that of a celebrated era of showboat entertainment and the Goldenrod’s unique part in that history. The second part relates the story of a ramshackle old vessel, beloved by some, unappreciated by others and her continuing struggle to be preserved for future generations.

The Goldenrod’s story of preservation began with her designation as a National Landmark in 1968 and continues until the present with her placement on the list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties in the United States. Standing along the banks of the Missouri River, observing this old relic, the Goldenrod begins to whisper her story to passersby. This is a tale of a bygone era. As the showboats traveled up and down the muddy rivers of the frontier, the crowds would rush to the riverfront. The band would strike up a tune and all were invited to partake in the excitement of showboatin’.

The showboat era was a chapter of American history unique to the frontier experience. During the nineteenth century, hundreds of thousands of pioneers lived along the major rivers of the Midwest. The showboat tradition began in the early 1800’s. With increased settlement and the advent of new farming techniques, life on the frontier became less time overwhelming. Settlers began to look towards the great rivers for new forms of entertainment to fill their days. Showboating quickly became the means of bringing dramatic and musical entertainment to these frontier families. Showboats provided many forms of entertainment including circuses, minstrel shows, and drama.

Showboating flourished during two distinct periods. The first showboat appeared in 1817. The industry took of with the construction of numerous entertainment vessels carrying whimsical names such as the Floating Theatre, Floating Circus Parade, New Sensation, Water Queen, Sunny South, and Greater New York (Wendy S. Moore, “Down on the Levee” February 1976: 1-9). This first period was abruptly cut short with the outbreak of the civil war. Among other reasons, the great Mississippi River, running north to south and a major thoroughfare for showboats was cut off by Union troops. Around 1870, showboating reappeared and it was within this second period the Goldenrod was constructed.

W.R. Markle, considered one of the greatest showboat owners of the era, envisioned building the ultimate of showboats. He was a colorful sort, a gambler-turned-entrepreneur. Markle financed two other boats, the Grand Floating Palace and the Sunny South with his poker winnings. In 1909, Markle’s vision became reality and the Goldenrod was built for $75,000 dollars in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She was two hundred feet long and forty-five feet wide. The exterior was surprisinly sparse, but the inside was the most ornate of showboats. The Goldenrod’s interior was modeled after the Majestic Theatre in Denver, Colorado. There were 21 theatre boxes on two levels with over 2,500 lights on the ceiling walls. Seating capacity reached 1,400. In 1926, this was reduced to 950 seats in order to avoid taxes. In “Showboats – The History of an American Tradition”, Philip Graham explains: Her ceilings and walls were studded with 2,500 lights clustered in intricate designs. Gilt friezes and highly wrought brass, decorated balcony and box railings. Draperies and upholstery were of red velour, and the floor was richly carpeted. Full-length wall mirrors exaggerated the size of the spacious auditorium. The stage, large and elaborately decorated in frieze and gilt, was well equipped with three drops and eight sets. Markle’s unlimited credit had been used to install every convenience known to the river (Philip Graham, “Showboats – The History of an American Tradition” (University of Texas Press, 1951), p.3.).

Upon completion, the Goldenrod embarked on a traveling tour that lasted until 1937. She was permanently docked at the Locus Street landing in the city of St. Louis. At the height of her career, she traveled to over 15 states each season. The showboat traveled as far east as Pittsburgh, west to Omaha and south to New Orleans. As was tradition, the Goldenrod did not have her own power and was tugged over the Monogahela, Ohio, Kanawha, Illinois, Wabash, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers (Moore, p. 15). The excitement of the showboat pulling into Midwestern frontier towns is most adequately captured in an excerpt from Edna Ferber’s musical “Showboat” which was based on her experience aboard the Goldenrod:

Now the crowd was drifting down to the landing as the showboat lights began to glow. Twilight was coming on. On the landing, up the riverbank, sauntering down the road, everybody came the farm hands, the river folk, the curious, the idle, the amusement hungry. Snatches of song. Feet shuffling upon the wharf boards. A banjo twanging. The showboat had finally come to town. (Edna Ferber, “Showboat” Doubleday, 1926.)

The Goldenrod cast entertained audiences specializing in traditional melodrama, often direct from the Broadway stage. Each season consisted of a two to three weeks of practice and rehearsal. Wages on the boat were twelve to fifteen dollars per week including free room and board. Days on the Goldenrod began with a breakfast served at 10:00 am, dinner at 4:00 and a late night snack following the evening performance (Moore, p.16.).

W.R. Markle owned and operated the Goldenrod for only four years. A series of misfortunes ended with a foreclosure on his treasured showboat. During Markle’s tenure, the Goldenrod took in more revenue than any other showboat on the rivers. Unfortunately, Markle was also spending more. His Ford motorcar was carried on board for day excursion at ports of call. Markle insisted on the most expensive programs with a combination of musical comedy, music, and specialty acts. Markle invested the majority of his profits back into the boat, keeping in perfect condition.

In 1910, the Goldenrod’s tugboat, the Connie Neville, was sunk in a storm. This $21,000 loss was compounded when the Goldenrod was blown four miles upstream onto a sandbar. Another $15,000 expense came the following year. While backing out of a landing in Illinois, Markle sank a posh river yacht. Increased misfortune led Markle to begin betting the races in an effort to recoup his losses. In 1913 the Goldenrod was lost by foreclosure (Graham, 101-102.) . By 1914, the Goldenrod was sold to Markle’s showboat competitor Ralph Emerson. The boat again changed ownership and was purchased by J.W. Menke in 1922. In 1926, the Goldenrod ceased traveling south of the Mississippi because of decreased profits on the southern leg of its journeys. From 1922-1935 the Goldenrod traveled to an average of fifteen states per season (Moore, p. 15).

In 1937 the Goldenrod docked in St. Louis for a two-week performance. The shows were so well received that she and her cast permanently moored on the levee along the Mississippi River town until 1990. While there, the Goldenrod cast continued to perform mostly melodrama and vaudeville shows. Famous performers including Bob Hope, Jean Stapleton, Red Skeleton, Hunts Hall, Margaret O’Brien and Harry Blackstone all graced the boat’s stage (Archie Scott, “Goldenrod Showboat – The History”). In 1962, the Goldenrod succumbed to fire. The pilothouse, stage roof, wall bracings, stage curtains, scenery, costumes, and two staterooms were all lost. Fortunately, the boat was generously restored and renovated. The boat’s famous past and careful restoration was honored with a National Landmark designation in 1968.

Showboating reached its peak around 1910. That year 21 boats traveled the waters of the Mississippi Basin. By 1928 there were only 14 left and 5 in 1938. This decline was due to a number reasons. The film industry took off; American’s enjoyed increased mobility, and most importantly, the Great Depression stripped many American’s pockets of extra funds for entertainment (United States Department of the Interior, National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1967). Life on the river was extremely rough on these wooden boats. One by one, they slowly succumbed to the icy mid-western winters, sank during storms, washed up on sandbars, were devastated in spring floods, washed out to sea, and finally, sold and dismantled. Eventually, there was only one left to tell their cumulative stories of the showboatin’ era (Moore, p.1).

The historical significance of the Goldenrod is not only found in her glorious past, but her amazing resilience and fortitude. The Goldenrod continuously entertained audiences until 2001. The second portion of this paper will speak of the Goldenrod’s ongoing fight to continue this tradition of riverside entertainment and the small Missouri town who has learned the hard way the dedication necessary to maintain a small piece of history.

In 1964, Frank Pierson purchased and operated the Goldenrod until his death in 1990. After many rounds of negotiation, the Goldenrod again changed ownership. Dorothy Pierson, widow of the Goldenrod’s deceased owner Frank Pierson, began negotiations with the city of St. Charles, Missouri for sale of the boat. After 53 years docked at the St. Louis levee, the Goldenrod had found a new home on the Missouri River. St. Charles, is a medium sized city located approximately 30 miles west of St. Louis. This historic town, the first Missouri state capital, is located upon the banks of the Missouri River. The town has a vibrant historical district and the Goldenrod was considered an excellent addition to the downtown and an exciting new tourist attraction. It was expected to be a hot spot for theatregoers as well as small business conferences. Then Mayor Grace Nichols explained, ” It dovetailed well with our plans to develop the Missouri Riverfront with historic boats.” (Sue Schneider, Business Network, “Broadway Style” May 1991, p.10). The Goldenrod was purchased for $260,000 and the city reacted with great enthusiasm. City officials negotiated a contract with a New York based entertainment production company. Dodger productions agreed to renovate and operate the boat (Schneider, p. 10). Councilman Kenneth Keilty was quoted as saying the Goldenrod will provide “An opportunity for very wholesome, nationally known entertainment to come to our community.” (Dennis Miller. St. Charles Journal, “City has eyed Goldenrod for several months”, January 31, 1990).

By November of 1990, the Goldenrod was moved to St. Charles while extensive restoration began. Rotting wood around the catwalk and the roof edges was replaced as well as roof edges and new guardrails. Areas where the old wood rotted through were also fixed. The boat was fully repainted. Electrical wiring was replaced and a sprinkler system installed. Much of the work included bringing the Goldenrod up to current Coast Guard standards. Kip Borgschulte, owner of KB construction, the firm in charge of the restoration explained:

It’s like working on an old home; you have to resist the temptation to do everything in a new way. You have to keep telling yourself that keeping it in its historic state is important. When you think that this is the last showboat, you have to feel good to be helping to put in back in shape.” (Darrell Shoults. St. Charles Journal. “Goldenrod revamping is churning right along”, November, 25, 1990.).

The entertainment firm picked up the cost of the boat’s restoration. In return, the City of St. Charles provided the firms with a 10-year abatement of lease payments. The city believed this was an equitable negotiation because it would receive revenues from sales and tourism taxes on board the ship. After the Goldenrod’s first week of operation reviews were positive. Zuckerman, a partner in the entertainment firm, was quoted,” I feel we will become an institution in this city.” (M.J. Trask, St. Charles Journal, “City, entertainment firm are bullish on Goldenrod” May 21, 1991.)

A year later, the headlines had changed somewhat. An editorial in the St. Charles Journal pleaded with residents to attend shows: “Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard a lot of the people in St. Charles not supporting the Goldenrod, not trying to make it part of their community. Dodger Entertainment is totally committed to making it works. But they really need support from people in St. Charles.” (Darrel Shouts. St. Charles Journal. “Patron’s will would pave the way to Goldenrod Showboat’s success.” May 10, 1992.).

Despite a minimal reception by local residents and less than anticipated ticket sales, the Goldenrod continued to stay afloat in St. Charles for 10 years. The theatre received most of its attendance from tour groups and senior citizens organizations.

In February of 2001, low water levels caused the Goldenrod to hit the bottom of the Missouri River. This caused a crack in the boat’s hull. The Coast Guard quickly stepped in, deeming the boat unsafe. The Goldenrod was ordered shut down. For the first time in ninety-two years the old lady of the rivers was silenced. A June 2001 editorial explained: “Whatever course St. Charles officials take with the Goldenrod Showboat should be determined with two objectives in mind. First and foremost is the need to preserve the structural integrity of this floating museum so that it remains a viable cultural and educational asset to be enjoyed by current and future generations. Second, the city should explore every option available to keep the 92-year-old Goldenrod functional on the St. Charles riverfront, including aggressive pursuit of any state and federal dollars available to pay for it. While the Goldenrod has enjoyed a measure of support from the community, it has had its share of detractors, residents who view the expenditure of tax dollars on the Goldenrod as an unnecessary drain on the city’s budget. It’s critics underestimate the showboat’s worth as a unique tourist attraction and a source of entertainment and cultural enrichment for both visitors to the community and area residents. The city brought the Goldenrod to St. Charles in 1990 not with the expectation that it would be a profitable undertaking, but rather that it would enhance the riverfront and provide one more amenity to help make the city a tourist destinaton.” (Editorial, St. Charles Journal, “Historic showboat must be preserved.” July 20, 2001.).

This action by the Coast Guard spurred local preservationist Archie Scott to collaborate with St. Charles Councilman Bob Hoepfner. The two began devising a proposal that would allow the Goldenrod to stay in St. Charles, while protecting it from the ravages of the Missouri River. Their final proposal was submitted in October of 2002. The proposal involved moving the Goldenrod off the Missouri and enclosing in a backwater basin. This basin is the only section of the original riverbank left from the showboat era. Scott located photographs from the early 20th century to back this up. This proof is pivotal in retaining the National Historic Landmark designation. The Blanchette Creek runs into the Missouri River through the Historic District. In the spring, the creek floods and at this point it would be damned up to create the basin. A pumping system would circulate the water, allowing for lily pads and fresh water fish. Other innovations included would be anchoring the showboat on hidden dolphin that would float several feet above a cradle. This would save the original hull from more damage and provide access for future repairs. Wharf boards would surround the basin providing an authentic turn of the century levee appearnce. The showboat be provided a safe harbor and maintained structure. A plan of regular maintenance and repair would be devised underneath the guidance of strong management. The Goldenrod would also be allowed increased visibility with better access (Archie Scott. St. Charles Journal. “New plan would save Goldenrod.” December 26, 2001.). In a December 2001 editorial. Scott pleaded: “St. Charles is on the brink of greatness and has the opportunity to have the best historic district in the country. We must protect this one of a kind original that sets us apart, to become a shining example of a small 1800s town, a restored river community complete with a small town depot, a mill, a blacksmith shop, original bricks and gaslights, original Boone’s Lick Trail and Trading Post (soon to be enhanced), and the beginning of the Great Western Plank Road (to be replicated by 2004). We have Lewis and Clark, who left from here on the Missouri River close to 200 years ago; and we have the Goldenrod Showboat, which could be St. Charles’ crowing jewel of something left from our past.”

The action by the Coast Guard and subsequent development into the possibility of moving the showboat into a protective basin initiated discussions about the future preservation of the Goldenrod and its long-term viability in the city of St. Charles. Most notably, these discussions quickly provoked the interest of the National Park Service. In a letter to the city administrator dated September 24, 2001, the mid-west National Historic Landmark Coordinator stated: “Two possible treatment alternatives have raised concerns among the preservation community. One is a recommendation that the wood hull be removed because of safety concerns. Another proposal to move the Goldenrod from the Missouri River and place it in an enlaced retention pond near St. Charles’ main street business district. The NPS opposes both of these proposals because each would negatively affect the historical integrity of the vessel. Historical Integrity is reflected through characteristics of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Over time, the loss of historic fabric and the accretion of historically inappropriate features can lead to a cumulative, negative impact that may so damage the vessel’s integrity that it may lose its NHL designation. If implemented, either of these treatment options warrants serious consideration of possible dedesignation of the Goldenrod as a NHL.” (Rachel Franklin Weekly, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service).

The city of St. Charles had been wedged between many different parties, governemental agencies and their interests. Continuing to dock the Goldenrod along the Missouri River would necessitate extensive renovation to meet Coast Guard requirements. One Coast Guard requirement involved removal of remnants of the 93-year-old original wooden hull. The original hull was placed inside and surrounded by a steel hull in the early 1950’s. Furthermore, expensive renovations and work would continue as long as the boat remained on the shallow, harsh Missouri River. The city had already invested a vast sum in the boat and tax payers were becoming agitated over what they saw as a waste of city resources. The proposal to develop a protective back water basin seemed the only viable and best solution to this problem.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service warned that removing the boat from the River or replacing the original hull would most probably result in a de-designation as a Naitonal Landmark. Without a NHL status the Goldenrod would lose much of its tourism and most importantly the boat would no longer be eligible for federal and state historic tax credits. Despite Hoepfner and Scott’s proposal, the showboat continued to sit dormant through the following year. The city of St. Charles did negotiate a contract with another agency, KKI Entertainment to begin the Coast Guard requirement renovations and operate the Goldenrod. The contract called for KKI to spend up to $250,000 on repairs. If more money were needed, the city would provide up to $300,000.

In January of 2002, the Goldenrod struck bottom for the second time. Looking out at the boat, local preservationist Archie Scott explained to a St. Charles Journal staff reporter: “The melodrama continues. I feel that one of these days it will rip open and we won’t have a landmark anymore. We are playing Russian roulette. Low water levels caused the boat to go aground last year, and we still haven’t decided what to do with it. The Goldenrod faces a very dangerous risk. I don’t want to see the boat turn into a demolition by neglect.” (Carrie A. Trent, St. Charles Journal, “Goldenrod Showboat again hits the bottom”, January 13, 2002).

Despite these setbacks, KKI Entertainment worked towards making the necessary reparations to re-open the showboat in the spring of 2002. A May 2002, St. Charles Journal article reported that renovations were not going as quickly as planned. KKI was running into financial problems restoring the vessel to the Coast Guard’s current standards. The owner of KKI, Kelly Ross Kerr, explained, “they are asking for things that are overly burdensome, that are needed more for vessels that travel up and down the river I’m just kind of frustrated. I’m trying to stay as calm as possible. It’s just a matter of when.” (Mark Schlinkmann, St. Charles County Post, “Goldenrod opening delayed; safety repairs are incomplete.”, May 31, 2002.)

In further developments, the St. Charles City Council voted in June of 2002 to contract an engineering firm to research moving the Goldenrod into a protective basin off the riverfront and its associated cost. The firm would be paid up to $100,000 to undertake the study”, Officers of the engineering firm explained, “This new location will provide a safe harbor, secure structure, higher visibility and more accessibility.” (Schlinkmann, May 31, 2002.)

During the summer of 2002, the engineering firm continued its study to determine the structural and economic feasibility of moving the showboat to the backwater basin. Despite setbacks earlier in the spring, KKI Entertainment continued renovating the boat in order to bring it up to Coast Guard requirements. On July 23rd the city of St. Charles agreed to pay between $80 and $100,000 dollars to install steel boxes around the hull and paint the exterior, as required by the Coast Guard. By mid-August the price was quoted at $289,000. The city quickly withdrew the bill, citing that the cost was more than twice what was anticipated.

Councilmen John Gieseke explained, “It’s [The Goldenrod] an albatross around our neck. We were told $100,000. When is enough, enough? Yeah, it’s our fault. We let it dilapidate and we put Kerr [owner of KKI Entertainment] in this position. But right now we should just cut bait and run.” Mayor Patti York added, “if we’re not going to take care of this national treasure, because it is not a priority to us anymore, we should find someone who will. It’s a sad day, but it’s time to move on.” By August of 2002, the city of St. Charles had spent nearly $4 million on the showboat and docking facilities. To add further complications, the Coast Guard, for safety rerasons, would not allow the city to simply shut the boat down and remain derelict sitting on the pier. (Carrie A. Trent, St. Charles Journal, “Council sinks Goldenrod renovation”, August 23, 2002.)

By late August of 2002, St. Charles City Council members had officially voted to pursue the sale of the Goldenrod Showboat. Mayor Patti York had testified that the city had little chance of successfully obtaining federal funds for further renovation. Council members believed that a private purchaser would have a better chance of obtaining the federal and Missouri state historic tax credits necessary to make this a feasible investment. This scenario could allow the boat to remain in St. Charles, while discontinuing the financial drain on city resources. The city would also be liable for a percentage of the $300,000 that KKI Entertainment had invested in brining the boat up to Coast Guard requirements. Councilman Rory Riddler explained, “Hopefully there’ll be a solution for this, short of scrapping it out.” (Mark Schlinkmann, St. Charles County Post, “St. Charles City Council votes to pursue sale of Goldenrod Showboat”, August 22, 2002.)

A month later, four private parties had expressed interest in purchasing the Goldenrod. Different uses were being suggested such as a museum and once again as a dinner theatre. City officials promoted the sale through local newspapers and national publications aimed at tourism (Mark Schlinkmann, St. Charles County Post, “Goldenrod showboat draws four nibbles, no real bite yet”, September 24, 2002). Local preservationist, Archie Scott suggested that the city should pay to have the boat moved to the protective basin as designed in his earlier proposal. This action would make the purchase of the Goldenrod a more attractive option for potential investors. Scott added, ” To me the biggest obstacle yet is to get it out of city politics. There are a lot of people in the community that would like to see the Goldenrod fail because of politics. I think washing our hands and giving up by selling it off would be a big loss in the community.” (Carrie A. Trent, St. Charles Journal, “Potential Buyers Tour Goldenrod”, October 2, 2002).

Throughout the winter of 2002 and following spring, potential buyers continued to tour the showboat and many expressed interest in its purchase. By March of 2003, the St. Charles City Council had given City Administrator Jim O’Connor the authorization to enter into formal negotiations with two potential investors. The first proposal came from an area businessman and founder of the St. Louis City Museum, Bob Cassily. He proposed to take the Goldenrod back to its original St. Louis levee location after 13 years on the St. Charles Riverfront to be used in conjunction with the museum. Cassilly would take the boat to the St. Louis before beginning on repairs and further construction. Although, the city was eager to rid its financial ties to the boat, they had made a large financial investment since its purchase for $360,000 dollars in 1990. Removing the boat from St. Charles would allow them to see no return on this investment.

The second proposal that from St. Charles businessman John Schwarz was more attractive. Schwarz proposal included plans very similar to those put forth earlier by Archie Scott and Councilman Bob Hoepfner, including the relocation of the showboat to a backwater basin. Unlike the earlier plan, the basin would also include other prominent showboats. Schwarz would need the authorizations of numerous governmental agencies to begin construction. Schwarz would move the Goldenrod upriver, to calmer waters, to undergo further renovations before placing it in the basin. Both proposals included turning the showboat over without remuneration. Although receiving nothing for the boat after so much lost investment seemed unwise to some, the majority of councilmen were eager to get it off the hands of the city. When the boat was purchased in 1900, the Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the showboat would make the city over $5 million. As demonstrated in this paper, this was never to be and as of March 2002, the Goldenrod had cost the city over $5 million. If the showboat stayed in St. Charles, “the city’s investment of $5 million won’t be completely lost.” (Phyllis Schaltenbrand, First Capital News, “Goldenrod Negotiations”, March 8, 2003.)

The week following the city’s decision to enter into sales negotiations, I met with local preservation guru and co-designer of the 2001 proposal to relocate the Goldenrod to a backwater basin, Mr. Archie Scott. Mr. Scott moved to the city of St. Charles in the 1960’s and founded the South Main Preservation Society in 1971. He explained that preservation is simply “a passion in his heart”. The Society was instrumental in the rehabilitation and revitalization of South Main Street. The Goldenrod is considered a part of the South Main area and the Society is very interested in seeing a successful renovation and its continued use in St. Charles.

Mr. Scott’s insider knowledge of St. Charles preservation and the Goldenrod Showboat along with his personal research on the subject was an invaluable resource to this paper. During our conversation, Mr. Scott explained his involvement with the Goldenrod and provided insight into why the Goldenrod’s stay in St. Charles has been plagued with problems.

Mr. Scott began by explaining the historical significance of the Goldenrod beginning with the showboat era and her National Landmark Designation in 1968. Three issues continued to arise as the most pressing and aggravating problems. The first is the necessity of getting the showboat of the Missouri River, “It needs to be in a safe harbor away from the ravages of the river.” Secondly, Mr. Scott believes politics has sabotaged the Goldenrod from its first days in the City of St. Charles. He explained, ” The Goldenrod has become a political football.”

Mr. Scott was approached Councilman Bob Hoepfner in 2002. As a well-respected preservationist, Hoepfner believed Scott would be an invaluable asset in designing a proposal to keep the Goldenrod in St. Charles. Mr. Scott explained that he is willing to “work with anyone interested in preservation.” After conceiving the plan. Mr. Scott quickly realized that “politics would be the death of it.” Although the plan was well received, Councilman Hoepfner was outspoken and unpopular with many city officials. Mr. Scott realized too late that no plan co-conceived with Councilmen Hoepfner had a chance of passing through city council. There were too many opponents of the Goldenrod preservation and Bob Hoepfner. Unfortunately, this innovative proposal was lost in the political game that is city politics. Scott explained, ” Preservation always loses in politics.”

The third major problem involved mismanagement. The city was too lazy in applying for federal funding, “when you are dealing with the federal government you have got to stick it out.” Mr. Scott appeared positive about the current proposal by local businessman John Schwarz. But summed up St. Charles’ history with the Goldenrod in three words: “Unsolvable, Political, and Challenging”.

A number of issues inluding the necessity of obtaining federal and state funds to make preservation a feasible option, the uphill battle for preservationists when the city is not supporting them as well as tax payers, elected officials who are beholden to their voters. In the game of politics, preservation always loses, the necessity of public agencies to be sensitive to these old relics. For instance, public school systems, city building codes, as well as the Coast Guard.


A ghost reportedly haunts the Goldenrod showboat. Many staff members and performers claim that the boat is visited by the ghost of a youg girl in a red dress. Many years ago “Victoria”, a young girl whose father was a performer on the boat, was brutally murdered along the St. Louis levee. Soon after the little girl in the red dress began throwing some performances on her own!