Sea History 144 - Autumn 2013

Page 54

Full Speed Ahead! The SS Columbia Project pays tribute to founder Richard Anderson and makes plans for restoration and transport.


hen Richard Anderson first laid eyes on SS Columbia, he found her co ndi tio n wanting. Launched in 1902, the Columbia ran fo r ninety years as a passenger steamer, but in the years since she was retired in 199 1 she endured significant damage and disrepair. H er hull deteriorated and her mechanical systems are o ut of date; her o riginal deco r- boasring mahogany panelin g, gilded moldings, a grand sraircase, and even an open-air ballroom- is unresro red, and

"To envisio n the Colum bia fully resto red and plying the beauti ful waters of the Hudson River is a d ream we can all ado pt," rem arked Mr. Ellio tt. "H e has left it to us w carry o n his dream." This dream is exactly wh at the SS Columbia Project hopes will be a reality as they move fo rwa rd w ith executing p lans fo r her reswratio n and transpo rt. The lo ng-term goal is that an operatio nal SS Columbia w ill serve to restore a historic water transpo rtatio n system berween the Hudson Valley and New Yo rk

(left) SS Columbia laid up in Detroit; (right) as celebrated on postcards and other promotional materials from her heyday.

C ity. Passengers aboard the Columbia will be her safety sys tems are inadequate for presencouraged to explore the area-visiting the ent-day operations. The ship lives in rem any historic sites, museums, galleries, gartirement now on the outskirts of D etroit, dens, and scenic attractio ns that exist in loand, tho ugh she is beloved by many, her cal communities, and of course, dining and fare was for a long rime uncertain . That is, unti l her story reached Richard, who desho pping. O nboard activi ties will include a firsthand look at how the m assive a ntiq ue cided to undertake a noble and challengsteam engi ne is o perated, guided to urs of ing quest: to salvage and restore her and the vessel, lectures, and cultural programs put her back into service. His vision began for children. w take shape as h e m obilized fri ends and To m ake this happen, the SS Co lumencouraged proponents-bo th in D etroit bia Project h as developed a rwo-ph ase opand N ew York. H e applied for (and reRichard Anderson (1962- 2 013) erational stra tegy: Phase I is res torati o n and ceived) grants, assembled a board, set up a sys tem for donations and found ed the SS Columbia Project Phase II is operation on rhe Hudson Ri ver. U nder the guidance (SSCP), rhe non-profit o rganizatio n that has acquired the ship of experts in ship repair and historic ship preservatio n, Phase and has taken on its revitalization . But earlier this year, the ve ry I will be set up to allow visitors to view the wo rk of rhe restoteam that had com e to share Richard's dream was charged with ration itself. Phase II encom passes the ship's operation in the a so rrowfu l and unexpected task: anno uncing his death to sup- Hudson Valley and New Yo rk H arbo r. "I thin k many of us lo ng fo r an oppo rtunity to be part o f som ething bigger than we are," po rters of the proj ect after he passed in January of this year. "Richard was brave in undertakin g the SSCP and brave in said Mr. Osbo rn. "We wa n t to be enco uraged to rake risks, to the way he faced his illness," said Bob Ell iott, acting co-chair- reach fo r high goals, to make a difference and have an impact. man of rhe SS C P "The project lives o n today out of loyal ty and Richard inspired those sparks in us-fanned the fl am es of our ad m iration fo r Richard Anderson." Fred O sbo rn III, who sirs own deep-down desires-and his spi rit leads us o nward, 'o ne alongside Mr. Elliott as co-chairman , echoed these sentiments. step at a time,' to see that magnificent vessel bustling up the "Richard had a way of making one think creatively; he m anaged migh ty Hudson River." to kindle o ur enthusias m and dampen any of o ur skepticism Help support the SS Columbia Project! V isit our website about rhe project. 'One step ar a tim e,' he wo uld say, and we all ar to do nate o nline. Contributio ns are wo uld listen." also gratefully accep ted in pers;on or by mail at our offices: SS In a m em o rial service held fo r Richard o n 29 June at his Columbia Project, 232 East l l 1rh Street, New Yo rk, NY 10003. house overlooking rhe Hudson Ri ve r, fri ends spoke about real- For mo re info rmatio n, inq uiriess can be made to boa rd m embers: izing h is vision, saying rhar they could imagine the Columbia Bob Elliott, Fred O sbo rn III, }roa n D avidso n and Ke nt Barwick; steaming past, ringing her bell every tim e she passed his h o use. or to Laura Bintzer, SSCP admiinist rato r. -Laura Bintzer