The Admiral’s demise

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.

Admirla center

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.

Sources:HereHere , and KLAW

10 thoughts on “The Admiral’s demise”

  1. A sad ending to a wonderful ship. Spent several hours on it while I lived in the STL area, lost several dollars also!!!! The river skyline just won’t be the same.

    Thanks for the photos

    • Though I’ve been on her when she was a casino, her real history was before that as an excursion boat. Her art-deco styling with a big beautiful dance floor where people danced to the sounds of the likes of Bob Kuban and many big band orchestras while the Admiral cruised up and down the mighty Mississippi. There were afternoon and dinner cruises. She will be missed.
      It’s funny how sometimes there is a big “Save the Historical Building” campaign for many things around town but hardly a peep when the Admiral was on life support.

  2. I never got to see her, or go aboard. But if she was anything like the casino riverboat in Evansville, Indiana then good riddance. What a dump that boat is. Cramped, and stinking of stale cigarettes.

  3. How sad this is- another unique attraction lost forever -what fun it was to cruise the Mississippi, listen to the calliope and see an occasional show. St. Louis seems determined to destroy its history -demolishing the Arena was another tragedy – with all the wasteland of empty derelict buildings in the city couldn’t another place be found to put up that generic office building instead of saving the special places that would make St. Louis a destination to go and visit.

    • Atlanta seems bent on tearing down anything over 20 years old. Not only do the buildings disappear, all of the streets get renamed to honor our esteemed politicians…What a disgrace.

  4. I see your point about the cigarette stench. They opened her up and found cancer throughout the belly, it had spread to the silver skin, it was basically everywhere…….what a shame.
    She ended up fetching $ 173.48 in scrap. I had fun on that baby before it got sick and out dated……

  5. I cruised on her for moonlight dances and later in the 70s went to dinner theatre there. Those were good old days.

  6. I visited The Admiral on my first visit to St. Louis in 1985 or 1986. On the boat was the first place I ever played the classic arcade video game Ikari Warriors, which my brother and I played for about an hour. This was amazing to me because 1) we were playing a video game ON A BOAT!, and 2) the game was truly amazing. Sadly, this is my only vivid memory of The Admiral. My Dad probably has better memories, especially since he was able to get rid of us kids for an hour while him and his cousin could share a couple beers in the bar on-board.

  7. What a shame, I wonder what it cost to build the boat. I’m sure way more than what the scrap-out price was.

  8. I remember a log hit one of the ships that was docked in front of the Arch back
    in the late 1960’s and sank it, but I don’t remember if it was a paddle wheel or
    which one it was. It’s such a shame for it’s loss, since it was an institution,
    like the arch and Busch Stadium. Busch stadium was demolished for the new stadium,
    and now the Admiral is gone for something bigger and better, I guess the arch is next, since it is coming up on it’s 50th anniversary.

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