Tinted postcard view, circa 1950.
May 2006 - as she currently stands.
July 1974, sailing near Bellerive Park. Photo courtesy of site visitor Conrad Otto.
Moored downtown, spring 1997.
Seen from the Gateway Arch, circa 1997.
Moved north of Eads and MLK bridges, 2001.
Architect: Maizie Krebs
St. Louis's most famous sailing ship is older than it looks. Its hull comes from an older cargo vessel, the Albatross, dating from 1907. The Albatross was quite a massive beast, hauling 16 rail cars at a time across the river at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In 1938, Streckfus Steamers, Inc. began reconstuction of the vessel as their new excursion flagship. The luxurious new vessel launched in June, 1940; it was the largest inland passenger steamer of its time. The Admiral featured Streamlined Art Deco styling around her five decks, two of which were air conditioned. At 373 feet in length, she had room for 4,400 passengers.
The Admiral was built as a steam-powered side-wheel paddlewheel boat; it was converted to diesel-powered propellers in 1973. The original steam engines are on display at St. Louis' Museum of Transport
The Admiral was a local legend in her heyday, and a common sight as she made her way up and down the river, typically cruising south to Jefferson Barracks and back. Cruises featured dancing and live music, food and drink, jazz and big bands and rock and roll. The boat could be rented for banquets in addition to standard day and evening cruises.
After spending many years cruising the river, Streckfus sold the Admiral in 1981, prompted by hull corrosion. After some years as a floating but stationary attraction, it was converted to casino use in 1993. A rather monstrous pink transitional dock was constructed at the time, crudely aping the ship's lines while blocking most of it from view. Little if any of the original interior remains, having been replaced by fairly standard casino fair -- mirrors, flashing lights, plush carpets, and scads of slot machines.
After its conversion, the Admiral operated as the President Casino Laclede's Landing, and was eventually moved from its dock near the Arch to a new location just north of Eads Bridge. The President Casino company went went bankrupt in 2002. In 2006, the Admiral was acquired by Pinnacle Entertainment. Pinnacle sought to sell the vessel, citing excessive maintenance needs and declining business for the casino. Perhaps promted by a requisite 2010 Coast Guard inspection, Pinnacle ended all casino operations and closed the ship down in June 2010. The ship was sold to St. Louis Marine and Materials.
The vessel's future looks bleak as of 2011. In November 2010, the entire boat was offered in an eBay auction, with a suggested price of $1.5 million. Unable to find another buyer to operate the vessel, St. Louis Marine held an auction on November 21st to sell off all the interior fixtures, fittings and contents. Scrappers began working on removing interior machinery and systems after that, causing a small fire on January 21st while using a torch to cut through a grease-coated exhaust duct in the kitchen.
The Admiral at Steamboats.org
S.S. Admiral at Wikipedia - includes postcard images of the Albatross.
Bygone Days Aboard the Admiral at USGennet.org
World's Largest Floating Ballroom - postcard view at StLouisTimePortal.com
The Admiral at Ecology of Absence