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End of an era – The SS Admiral from cruising to gambling to ?

Admiral1An icon of the St. Louis riverfront faces an uncertain future.  The S.S. Admiral was built at St. Louis by Streckfus Steamers Inc. in 1938 – 1940 as a sidewheel excursion boat. Her hull came from the former railroad transfer Albatross built in 1907. She is 374 feet long and 92 feet wide and had a capacity for 4,400 passengers. In the winter of 1973 – 1974 she was converted to diesel-props, one in each paddlebox.

The Admiral was and still is a unique boat because of her size and because of her art deco streamlining. She was the first steamboat on the Mississippi river which was fully air-conditioned.

Admiral ballroomShe served as an excursion boat until 1979. I took many a cruise up and down the Mississippi River on the vessel as a child, teenager and young adult.  As a teenager I can remember watching Bob Kuban and his band play on the Admiral.  The riverboat featured a calliope that played music as it pulled away from the dock, an air-conditioned two-story ballroom, and a game room, with pre-video game amusements, on the lowest deck.   Couples would stroll th the top deck and watch the city skyline go by on the romantic moonlight cruises.

Concerns about hull strength prompted the boat’s permanent mooring. A businessman from Pittsburgh bought the Admiral in 1981, removed the engines, and months later sold the boat to St. Louis interests. She was sold several times and has served as a floating casino in Davenport Iowa in the late 1980’s before returning home to St. Louis and the riverfront near the Gateway Arch as the President Casino on the Admiral a few years later.

Admiral lido deckThe Missouri Gaming Commission moved this year to pull the President’s gaming license because of poor casino performance.  Competition from newer local casinos and online casinos hasn’t helped save the Admiral.

The boat is up for sale and an auction was scheduled for last week, but no serious bids were placed.  The boats future is uncertain.  Most of the boat’s  remaining contents will be auctioned off later this month.

She now sits idle just North of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, MO.

More on the SS Admiral.