ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – They came one at a time and in groups, many with cameras in hand, to bid farewell to a St. Louis icon.
Slowly, a trickle of people turned into a decent-sized crowd in the sweltering sun along Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard Tuesday morning, with all eyes focused on the hulking art-deco exterior of a boat that was a fixture on the riverfront for decades.
“It’s been there for many years, ever since I was a teenager,” reminisced Linzie Finley of north St. Louis County, who waited in the heat nearly three hours before crews finally got the Admiral hooked up to three powerful tugs, which served as the boat’s escort on its final cruise.
Finley remembers being on the Admiral prior to leaving St. Louis to serve in World War II, and then he also happened to be on board again in 1998 when several barges broke loose and slammed into the boat, making Finley think he was back in the war for a few worried moments.
But even that has become a happy memory for him.
“St. Louis is losing a lot of history there,” Finley concluded as the Admiral began to slowly glide downstream to its final destination, with tugs fore and aft.
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Bill Kline with St. Louis Marine, the Admiral’s owners, said its a sad end for a vessel that provided enjoyment for hundreds of thousands of people over the years, but it became an economic reality once the President Casino closed its doors for good last year.
“Ships and boats are made to operate, they’re not made to sit around and be museum pieces,” Kline told KMOX News. “Unless you’re the federal government with unlimited resources that can maintain the USS Constitution, it’s just not feasible to maintain an old ship.”
So the Admiral’s fate is basically…oblivion.
“It will be taken down-river to a facility (in Columbia IL) temporarily, until we can arrange to get it into a slip where we have better access to equipment to remove the remaining infrastructure,” Kline said.
All of that will thrown out or sold as scrap, although Kline allowed that “the final disposition of the hull has yet to be determined.”
The hull, manufactured in 1907, may still have some use as the foundation for another vessel of some sort — but either way this is the end for the once instantly-recognizable boat, according to Kline.
“This is the last chapter in the history of the Admiral.”
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