A Historic Vessel, Stuck in Place

tags: Delta Queen, Mississippi River




CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — From the nearby Walnut Street Bridge, the Delta Queen does not appear to be in distress. The Tennessee River stirs gently, and the red paddle wheel of the venerable steamboat is still.

But the boat, a National Historic Landmark that once ferried presidents dating back to Herbert Hoover and now operates as a floating hotel, faces an uncertain future. Not allowed by law to steam away for overnight cruises and no longer entirely welcome at its dock downtown, the boat is now an issue before Congress and a sensitive matter for Chattanooga’s new mayor, who nearly evicted it this year.

“It is at a crossroads, but hopefully not for long,” said Leah Ann Ingram, who leases the boat from a Colorado company and oversees its daily operations. “I know people love the Delta Queen.”

The boat, with its 88 staterooms and now-silent steam calliope, was not always at the center of political debates and public relations brawls. For decades, it negotiated the waters of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Through the years, its manifests included three presidents and Princess Margaret of Britain, who stayed in Room 119, the Robert E. Lee Suite, in 1986....




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