Summer 2020 | Where Women Made History

SS Columbia has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a site “Where Women Made History”.

Ten years before Rosa Parks was removed from a bus, Sarah Elizabeth Ray was removed from Columbia. Sarah’s experience (long unrecognized) is now known to have inspired Rosa’s. In June 1945, Sarah was aboard Columbia, the sole African American on a celebratory graduation cruise with her classmates. Sarah was taken off the vessel before the vessel left the Detroit River dock. Michigan law prohibited segregation and discrimination on public conveyances. With the help of the NAACP (and Thurgood Marshall), Sarah filed a law suit which would ultimately end illegal segregation in Michigan. The suit was appealed at every level by the vessel operator, the Bob-lo Excursion Co. before making its way to SCOTUS. On Feb 2, 1948, the People of Michigan (and Sarah) prevailed thus putting an end to discrimination and segregation on the Bob-lo boats. Columbia, built in 1902 and today docked in Buffalo, remains a powerful symbol of how an individual battled injustice and won.

Summer & Fall 2019 | Laser Scan

We recently completed a laser scan of the deckhouse and interior hull spaces. With this highly accurate data, we can begin to map out exactly how the restoration will proceed. It will also allow us to create various “virtual restorations” so we can see how our decisions will translate onto the boat herself, and also help us fit in some of the modern amenities that will be required when she resumes operation as an inspected passenger vessel.

August 2018 | Press Release

The SS Columbia Project, a non-profit organization that aims to restore the oldest surviving excursion steamboat in the U.S., has announced that it is a recipient of a $100,852 National Park Service grant to continue repairs and restoration of the historic vessel. To see the full press release click here: August 2018 Press Release

March 2018 | Glory Be Columbia

SS Columbia Project supporters and friends Justin Rivers and Aaron Asis created Glory Be Columbia — a staged reading about Columbia that showed at Theatre Row from March 27-29 and was sponsored by Untapped Cities. The staged reading explored a woman’s life-long and unique connection to one of America’s last day boat steamers. Both her older and younger selves act as an archive to Columbia‘s special place in the lives of so many Detroit-area natives.

February 2018 | Launch of Captain's Circle

The SS Columbia Project launched the Captain’s Circle — a civic-minded group of risk-takers, dreamers and believers all committed to restoring Columbia. Members support the SS Columbia Project’s mission: to launch a moving cultural and educational venue that shines a spotlight on the Hudson River and its cities and towns. Members will have the opportunity to gain exclusive tours of Columbia, meet with the crew, and attend special events in New York City and the Hudson Valley. Click here to join.

January 2018 | NewInc Demo Day

Executive Director Liz McEnaney presented the SS Columbia Project at New Inc‘s Demo Day — introducing the steamboat to a new audience of artists, funders, cultural movers and shakers.

December 2017 | Ship of the Year

The Steamship Historical Society of America named the 1902-built SS Columbia the 2018 Ship of the Year. We gathered with friends at India House in Lower Manhattan on December 5, 2017 for a celebration. We were proud to be honored along with Captain Brian A. McAllister who was awarded the C. Bradford Mitchell Award winner for publication of the book McAllister Towing: 150 Years of Family Business.

November 2017 | University of Buffalo Preservation Studio

Students from the University of Buffalo conducted a preservation planning studio aboard Columbia. Led by Professor Kerry Traynor, and guided by SS Columbia Project port captain Ann Loeding, the students uncovered new information about the steamboat. Here’s some info: the floor covering was an early version of linoleum; the sills below the interior walls are granite; the wood panels and columns were varnished; and the overhead panels were canvas over masonite, and each had disks in their center.

October 2017 | Hudson River Story Barge

The SS Columbia Project partnered with 10 cultural and educational organizations to present the Hudson River Story Barge — a traveling arts and culture celebration of boats, cargo, people, and ideas, and how they all came together to influence the region’s river, canals, and ports. Programs were hosted aboard Pennsy 399 (a surrogate vessel, since Columbia is currently in Buffalo undergoing restoration) in Waterford and Kingston. Events included an onboard exhibit, a 360 virtual reality tour of Columbia, performances, interactive workshops, and more. All events were free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Hudson River Valley Greenway, Electra, and Archer Roose wines.

September 2017 | Hudson Valley Celebrations & We Moved!

The first SS Columbia Project summer series came to a close on the banks of the Hudson River in Germantown, New York. Over 100 people came out to learn about Columbia — many hearing about it for the first time. Thanks to our honorary board member Joan Davidson for providing us the perfect setting to imagine Columbia steaming on the Hudson.

We moved! After an amazing stint at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, we moved to a new office. We were selected to be part of the NEW INC/Columbia GSAPP Incubator at the New Museum. The shared workspace is a great place for us to meet new artistic and creative collaborators and put Columbia on the map as an educational and cultural venue. Please note: Our mailing address remains the same (232 East 11th Street, New York, New York 10003).

August 2017 |The Magic of Columbia's Ballroom

Columbia‘s ballroom is truly a place for magic. On August 11th, the wonderful singer and artist Drea D’Nur inspired us with her talk “Finding Your Genius” hosted by Buffalo CreativeMornings. On Sunday August 13th, Fred and Joan Cowell graced the ballroom with a dance during our free public tour. They first danced together in Columbia‘s ballroom nearly 70 years ago and and they promised another one when she arrives in the Hudson River.

July 2017 | SS Columbia 360

The decks of Columbia have been filled with artists, dancers, and musicians as we have been filming a 360 virtual reality video funded, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts grant. When completed, this will give people a sense of what the boat is currently like, what she will look like when fully restored, and her incredible capacity as a floating cultural venue. We also enjoyed not one, but two sunset tours aboard the Fireboat John J. Harvey as part of our Summer Series.

June 2017 | Cleaning Up Below Decks

Led by long-time Columbia enthusiast Lester Bartson, the boat crew worked on cleaning up the dining room and galley, in order to create a space to show off the boat’s superlative design details while her upper decks are being worked on. For photos of their progress, visit our Facebook Page. NYU Tandon’s Design for America students unveiled their board game, designed to be part of SS Columbia Project’s STEAM programming, at the National Week of Making event held at NYU’s MakerSpace.

May 2017 | Cocktails and Oysters

This month, the Summer Series continued at Grand Banks where we enjoyed cocktails and oysters with a sunset on the Hudson River. Executive Director Liz McEnaney and Port Captain Ann Loeding talked about plans to restore Columbia in Kingston’s Roundout Creek during a conversation focused on the historic vessel’s tourism potential, co-hosted by The Kingston Business Alliance and the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Our advisory board member, Huntley Gill, was also honored with a Grassroots Award by Historic Districts Council.

April 2017 | Summer Series Kick Off

On April 27th, we launched our 2017 Summer Series at the Frying Pan at Pier 66 on the Hudson River. The mist-evening added an element of romance, and the feeling of the past meeting the present on the water. Our partners at NYU’s Design for America team debuted “Full sTEAM ahead” – a board game designed to promote teamwork and collaboration among students and our Executive Director presented Columbia‘s tourism potential at an event hosted by the Kingston Business Alliance and the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

March 2017 | Journeys Up the Hudson

On March 26th, we journeyed up the Hudson River aboard Classic Harbor Line’s Manhattan II. Over 125 people exchanged ideas about how to promote the Hudson River as a regional destination and increase opportunities for the Valley’s cities and towns. Thanks to our co-hosts, Columbia University’s Hudson Valley Initiative and the Hudson River Foundation . To see images of the event, taken by Joshua Brown Photography, please visit our Facebook Page. We are also excited to report that we received a grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway to support our summer program, Hudson River Stories — a traveling arts and culture celebration of boats, cargo, people and ideas, and how they all came together to influence New York’s rivers, canals and ports. The exhibit will be housed aboard the historic covered barge Pennsylvania Railroad No. 399 and will travel along the Hudson River this Fall.

February 2017 | Surveying the Deckhouse

Earlier this month, the SS Columbia Project crew met with our marine surveyor and naval architect aboard the boat to survey the condition of the deckhouse as the next step in planning the type of stabilization that will be needed to prepare Columbia for her transit from Buffalo to New York. We have also added a new item to our shop – postcards of our six commemorative and collectible designs featured on our posters.

January 2017 | Planning the Rebuild

This month, project manager Ann Loeding and port engineer Gary Matthews met with the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s director Lisa Cline and master shipwright Jim Kricker to discuss Columbia‘s restoration. Jim is the director of the Riverport Wooden Boat School, which is part of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and is located along Rondout Creek in Kingston. The school strives to bring traditional wooden boat building and modern marine crafts together for the benefit of the local and regional community, especially teens.

December 2016 | Awarded $48,500 from New York State Council on the Arts

We certainly had some things to celebrate this holiday season! Earlier this month, we received a grant from New York State Council on the Arts in support of our 2017 programming. This funding is for a “River Story Barge” — a traveling arts and culture celebration of boats, cargo, people, ideas and how they all came together to influence the region’s waterways. The celebration will be a pilot project for the design of arts and cultural programs aboard Columbia. Additionally, Advisory Sam Buchanan was featured in the Detroit Free Press for making incredible ship models and Geddy Sveikaukas, of the Kingston Times, reported on our plans for Columbia and her unique connection to the civil rights movement.

October 2016 | All Aboard

This October, SS Columbia Project advisory board members met aboard LILAC and were given a fantastic tour by Mary Habstritt. The LILAC, owned and operated by the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project, is a retired 1933 Coast Guard cutter and the last steam-powered lighthouse tender in America. Advisors, board members, and friends also enjoyed drinks aboard Grand Banks this month. This celebrated oyster bar aboard a historic schooner on the Hudson River was the perfect setting in which to raise a glass and raise some funds.

September 2016 | A Fireboat Filled with Students

On September 9, 2016, the SS Columbia Project traveled upriver from New York City to Kingston on the historic 1931-built fireboat John J. Harvey. The trip introduced students from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and NYU’s Tandon Engineering School to the Hudson River. The urban design students from Columbia are looking closely at planning issues in Poughkeepsie. The students from NYU are part of Design for America, and have chosen Columbia as their semester-long project.

August 2016 | Onboard in Buffalo

Port Captain Ann Loeding and her crew have been hard at work this summer cleaning up in the engine room and stabilizing the main deck and ballroom for Torn Space Theater’s BURDEN, a site-specific theater piece featuring Columbia and the adjacent ‘Marine A’ grain elevator. Over 800 people attended the performance and another 100 people took free public tours from 18-21 August. There haven’t been this many people on the boat’s decks since the 1990s. We can truly say that life is returning to Columbia!
For more photographs of the restoration work, the free public tours, and the theater piece, please visit our gallery or our Flickr page.

July 2016 | Summer Evening Aboard the Fireboat John J. Harvey

On July 20th, we spent a perfect summer evening aboard the Fireboat John J. Harvey. Advisory board member, and captain of the historic vessel, Huntley Gill took us around Manhattan for a behind-the-scenes look at the waterfront. You can read all about the adventure in this Untapped Cities article by Michelle Young. We also celebrated 114 years since Columbia‘s first passenger voyage with a Ballroom Series event featuring Detroit-themed fare, generously hosted by Ian Danic and Chris Arnett.

June 2016 | Featured in The Progressive and The Classicist Blog

The month of June has seen a whirlwind of press – including our own! Our most recent newsletter featured an interview with Ann Loeding, Restoration Coordinator and Port Captain, that describes some of her considerations when restoring Columbia. To read this interview, please click here. The Institute of Classical Architecture and Art interviewed our Executive Director, Liz McEnaney, about Columbia’s classical details and restoration in their Classicist Blog. Advisory board member Ron Soodalter’s article about Sarah Elizabeth Ray and her historic court case, entitled “All Aboard: The Fight Against Segregation on Bob-Lo Island,” was recently featured in The Progressive.

May 2016 | SS Columbia Project in Brooklyn Heights

This month, the SS Columbia Project has been featured both in Brooklyn Heights and up the Hudson River! Nancy and Otis Pearsall introduced the SS Columbia Project to Brooklyn Heights with a fabulous Ballroom Series cocktail party at their home. The Project was also featured in an article by Alison Rooney of The Highlands Current titled “Project Hopes to Put Steamship Back on Hudson.”

April 2016 | Steamboat Speaker Series

We kicked off our inaugural Steamboat Speaker Series with a fantastic event featuring John Pollack, author of Cork Boat and expert on making seemingly unlikely vessels float. The event was generously hosted by The J.M. Kaplan Fund and documented by Stefanos Metaxas. For more information, and photos of the event, please click here.

March 2016 | SS Columbia Project in Curbed

The SS Columbia Project was recently awarded two matching grants totaling $10,000. Please help us match these funds by donating. Your contribution, effortlessly doubled, will allow us to shore up the main deck and ballroom. This month, SS Columbia Project was also featured in Curbed with a headlining article by Patrick Sisson.“How Preservationists Hope to Get 114-Year-Old Steamship Running Up The Hudson River” (March 15, 2016)  emphasizes how Columbia will reconnect people to a lost era of transportation.

February 2016 | SS Columbia Project in the Wall Street Journal

The SS Columbia Project was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal. Here is a link to the article “Effort to Restore the S.S. Columbia Tries to Gather Steam”(February 4, 2016). Reporter Melanie West writes that “the restoration efforts of the S.S. Columbia have buoyed other boat preservationists,” including the S.S. United States. Matthew Schulte, executive director of the Steamship Historical Society of America, remembers riding Columbia as a boy growing up in Detroit. “The boat ride was at least half the fun, he recalled. You could peer in the engine room, and families danced in the ballroom.”

January 2016 | Awarded $500,000 Matching Grant from New York State

We are pleased to announce that we were recently awarded a matching grant of $500,000 from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund Municipal Grant program. We need your help more than ever to help us raise the match to get Columbia to the Hudson River!

December 2015 | Winter Preparation Underway

Our crew has been securing the decks and preparing Columbia for winter in the Queen City. This work included the removal of 40 yards of rotten temporary decking and framing on the upper decks; loading on replacement lumber and plywood; jacking and shoring the outer sections of the upper decks; installation of framing and temporary decking on the Hurricane Deck port side; installation of security fencing around the perimeter of the main deck; and enclosure of the engine room casing.