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The Vessel

The National Historic Landmark (NHL) vessel SS Columbia is a highly important and endangered cultural resource. She is now the oldest surviving passenger steam vessel in the United States, and the best remaining work by one of America’s greatest naval architects, Frank Kirby.

Built in 1902, the Columbia combines a spectacular array of design, engineering, and aesthetic innovations. At 207’ in length and 60’ in breadth, the ship was designed to carry 3,200 passengers comfortably on her five decks. Her beautiful interiors were created in collaboration with the painter and designer Louis O. Keil. The ship is adorned with mahogany paneling, etched and leaded glass, gilded moldings, a grand staircase, and an innovative open-air ballroom. The Columbia’s massive 1,200-horsepower triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine, surrounded by viewing galleries, will become an unforgettable demonstration of early steam technologies for visitors. Laid up and minimally maintained for the past 15 years, the ship has suffered an accelerating decline in her condition.