The end of an era – The S.S. Admiral – A Mississippi River Boat and Casino
The Admiral as she appeared through the legs of the Eads Bridge on the St. Louis riverfront in the 1980’s
The boat that was so well known to St. Louis as the Admiral, first started out as the side-wheeled steel hulled steamboat, the Albatross (postcard view, below, from the collection of Scott K. Williams), built in 1907 in Dubuque, Iowa by Dubuque Boat and Boiler. She was a powerful as she was fitted with four large boilers. This boat’s hull was 308 feet long, 53.8 feet wide and 7.6 feet in depth. Above the hull she was 90 feet wide to accommodate the side wheel. She was quite a sight to look at and nearly the whole town of Keokuk, Iowa turned out to see her pass the the rapids (being too large for the canal) and to clear the bridge.
In 1937 she was bought by the Streckfus Steamers, Inc. and she steamed up to St. Louis to begin a career as a river excursion boat. By 1940, the ship underwent extensive conversion from wooden decks to four “modern” decks of art-deco luxurious style for a river-liner capacity of 4,400 passengers. She had become a totally new boat, so she was renamed the S.S. Admiral. The ship did not look like the same vessel. It was a complete makeover in appearance. The only thing remaining the same were its steel hull (4/5’s the ship’s weight) and remaining steam powered boilers. This new ship, the Admiral, is also recorded as being the largest river cruise ship in the world and the first Mississippi Riverboat to be fully air-conditioned. In 1973-1974 she underwent further modifications when diesel engines were added, bringing it to a total horsepower of 2,700.
By 1979, the Admiral was converted into a land-based entertainment night club. It’s finances were very shaky and the City bailed the ship out of debt more than on one occasion. Next the engines were removed and it became permanently moored. In the 1990’s it became a riverboat casino, known as the “President Casino on the Admiral”. In 2006 it had “1,230 slot machines, 59 gaming tables, 18 bathrooms, one restaurant” among other things.
The casino conversion was never that profitable due to other local casinos and online gambling competition. They wanted to move the boat to a new location but the move was not approved by the state, so the decision was made to close the casino and sell the boat. There were no acceptable bids so they decided to sell the boat as scrap. It was towed to Columbia Illinois and was turned into scrap this past summer.
Truly, the end of an era.