The hull of the sidewheeler President was originally built in 1924 for the steamer Cincinnati by the Midland Barge Co., Midland, PA. She was originally an overnight packet boat that carried passengers and freight from Cincinnati, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky. Her first trip was to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
In 1929, she was acquired by the Streckfus Steamers Company of St. Louis, MO, which briefly continued her use as a packet boat, but then laid her up until 1932. Streckfus moved her to her new homeport of St. Louis, Missouri and over the next two years, the ship was converted to become the largest excursion boat in America. The entire superstructure was rebuilt in steel, and a two-deck-high ballroom was added, as well as a bandstand.
The ship came out on July 4, 1934, as an excursion boat. She was 295.5 feet long and 84 feet wide and had space for 3,100 passengers. Her six boilers were oil burned. It was also at this time that she received her new name, President.
Newly converted and newly named, she opened for business in 1934 and Streckfus advertised her as "the New 5 Deck Luxury Super Steamer, Biggest and Finest On The Upper Mississippi". She continued tramping (having no fixed schedule or published ports of call) until 1941.
In 1940, she was displaced from her position as flagship of the Streckfus line by the S.S. Admiral.
In 1944 her guards were glass-enclosed after the boat settled down as a full-time excursion boat in 1944.
Loyola used to sponsor an annual dance aboard the President. At the Fall 1972 dance, two streakers ran across the dance floor carrying strategically placed mops. Later in the evening, I noticed tables and chairs being tossed out the windows and into the river. I believe that was the last time Loyola held a dance aboard the President.(10)
In 1978 her side-wheels were removed. She got three diesel powered propellers, one on each side and one at the stern.
In 1981 she was sold to the New Orleans Steamboat Co. which is also running the Natchez.
In 1985 she went to St. Louis, MO, and ran there as an excursion boat until 1990.
By the Spring of 1988 the President moved upriver to St. Louis.
May 24, 1988, was a sad day when the S.S. President, a favorite for Jazz Fest concerts, left New Orleans for good and headed for St. Louis, Mo.(9)
In 1990, President sailed her last dinner and dancing cruise before undergoing a ten million dollar renovation and conversion into a floating casino. She was purchased by what is now known as Isle of Capri Casinos.
On the port mezzanine there were palm trees and cartoon monkeys embossed on the wall under something like 50 coats of paint. The boat would list when the act was over and the crowd would shift toward the dockside exits?
We served Dixie and no other beer. The B-52 cocktail was popular.(4)
|The President's dance floor|
|The President's dance floor|
John Conally bought her and remodeled the President into a casino which opened in April 1991. She was used at Davenport during her last years. Her last cruise was on September 29th, 2000.
She was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989, though these designations were revoked in 2011. Her home ports have been Cincinnati, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, Vicksburg, Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri and Davenport, Iowa.
President retired from service in 1999 and was reported, in 2004, to be located on the Yazoo River in Mississippi. At that time, she was for sale by Isle of Capri Casinos. She was also located for a time at Treasure Island in Lake McKellar at Memphis, Tennessee.
In January 2009 President was located in Alton, Illinois, where she was first listed by the National Park Service November 2007. She was then disassembled and moved in pieces to St. Elmo, Illinois, near Effingham. Although local businesspeople hope to re-assemble her as a non-floating tourist attraction and hotel, financing has yet to be secured while the vessel rusts as a heap of scrap metal.
Here's Gary Frommenlt's complete concert list for the Riverboat President:
A private party for the Rolling Stones was held on Thursday, December 3, 1981, aboard the riverboat President in New Orleans, prior to a Stones concert in the Superdome. Before Dianna Chenevert founded Omni Attractions, she was a licensed talent agent through the Musicians Union. Chenevert booked musicians for the Stones' private party and later included them on the “Southern Stars” poster. A picture of the Dirty Dozen Brass band performing at the Stones' party was also used for Omni’s agency brochure.
Band members aboard were: Mick Jagger (with Jerry Hall), Keith Richards, guitarist Ron Wood, bassist Bill Wyman, and keyboardist Ian Stewart. There were approximately 500 guests. Writer Betty Guillaud mentioned the following guests in attendance: Jimmy Coleman Jr. (Queen Elizabeth’s royal representative in N.O.), Sybil Calhoun, Mary Lou (Mrs. John) Ochsner with daughter Joby; Gordon Maginnis, Marguerite Littman (friend of Bianca Jagger) and her brother Speed Lamkin; Prince Rupert Lowenstein; artist-restaurateur Marti Shambra; Patrick Sargent, Debbie Thibodaux; Taft Blake, Bill Dow (President of the New Orleans Steamship Co., which recently purchased the riverboat President), Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills & Nash), Dr. Rise Ochsner, Paula and Barry Mendelson, Bill Johnston, Bill Fagaly, Dawn Dedeaux, Paul Varisco, Sandra Doss, Robert Alford, Rupert Surcouf (Al Hurt’s nephew who traveled with the Stones for a couple of years as previous manager of the The Meters and Neville Brothers), Susan Sierra, Leon Steele, Jason Berry with his bride and brother Jack, Nancy Kittary, Cherel Katz, Dr. Bill Coleman, Jim Pertuit and son Jimbo, Pres Kabacoff, Arthur Pulitzer, Lori Taylor, Michael Botnick, Russell Rocke, and Dianna Chenevert with her Beaumont buddy Debra Jo Fondren, Hugh Heffner’s Playmate of the Year, circa ’78.
Included on stage for the evening’s entertainment were: Tuts Washington, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, the Meters, Oliver “Who Shot the La La” Morgan, Deacon John, and the Neville Brothers. Chef Paul Prudhomme, proprietor of K-Paul’s Restaurant supplied an array of Louisiana culinary delights including platters of crawfish pie, Cajun popcorn (fried crawfish), hushpuppies, fried catfish, blackened red fish, salad, red beans and rice, gumbo, crabmeat tortillas, pralines and pies.
The party was hosted by Atlantic Records, who had recently released the Stones' album Tattoo You, and Bill Graham. According to Bunny Matthews, the Stones' private party cost $85,000. Fats Domino had recently returned from a European tour and didn’t perform or attend because of his ailing vocal cords.
This review is a bit lacking in the vocabulary department but it's a great review!
"There were MANY great shows.... HOW-ever ... The absolute wildest night on the ole' MISS-AH-SIP.. . The most craz... Ah ... most extremely dangerous night on the ole' RIVER BOAT EL PRESIDENT was the night Johnny, Dee Dee , Marky and Joey RAMONE brought their NuYork wall of sound to Nu Wallins aboard the riverboat PRESIDENT.
I was under the impression(common sense) the boat would stay moored at the dock, because once the band started, oh boy watch out...! The trouble/ good time that we were preparing ourselves for just might capsize this tub (What I wuz thinking to myself at the time) HELL When I walked in and heard the CRAMPS being played as warm up music coming over the PA system I knew then it was geauxing to be a wild one. Letmetellya ... What followed can best be described as ..uh .. as the insanity of ah... uh.. Riotous slug fest of fly-n bodies ,beer bottles & blood with a little music mixed in. Of course boys will be boys and uh stage dive contest ensued (From the second story balcony ) onto crowed ballroom floor wipe-n out 25-35 people in a single stage dive, w/ local semi famous Dit Townfriendingly"(of the US MARINES) Leading the charge !..... Quickly this gang of merrymakers TOTALLY OUT of CONTROL ... ah .. BATTLE-ROY-EL of mayhem disguised as dancing ..ah.. A commotion in motion .. that was routinely guaranteed to have the MFNOPD(COPS) crashing the party and stopping the show. But ..! But ...!. To my amazement and dread, we were now headed full steam up river ... We were somehow Rolling on the river, without a cop in sight. When we finally took a break to lick our wounds and checked to see if I still had all my teeth... We found that (Fried chicken and corn on the cob) the kitchen had prepared a incredible spread for on board guess\hoodlums .. For desert ..We drank a cold one and smoked a fat one.. up on top of the boat.. it was ah beautiful thing ....
I was 19 years ole I had my whole life in front of me.. ONCE in a LIFE TIME... Here is to, The Sunny Slopes of Long Ago ........(6)
Jerry performed here on
11/3/82 Jerry Garcia Band
Promoter Ed White
Jerry stayed at the Marie Antoinette Hotel, New Orleans, LA.
1,)^"National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
2.)^"PRESIDENT (Steamboat)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service.
3.)^Leisa Zigman (July 21, 2009). "Historic St. Louis riverboat now rusted scrap". KSDK
4.)^MacCash, Doug, Remembering the Riverboat President music club, 2009-11-15, The Times-Picayune
5.)^Frommelt, Gary, SS President concert list
6.)^tejastiger61, Remembering the Riverboat President music club, 2011-07-14, http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2009/11/remembering_the_riverboat_pres/2578/comments-5.html
7.)^Times Picayune Guillaud, Betty. "Lagniappe" article: "Localites roll aboard riverboat in wake of Stones" December 7, 1981, Section 5, Page 3
8.)^Times-Picayune Matthews, Bunny. "Rolling Stones and fortunate fans gather at the river", December 5, 1981. Section 5, Page 6
9.)^Ponchatrain, Blake, Where did the riverboat President that was docked on the Spanish Wharf ended up?, 2003-10-20, http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/new-orleans-know-it-all/Content?oid=1242080
10.)^bluealligator, 2009-11-16, http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2009/11/remembering_the_riverboat_pres/2578/comments-4.html
11.)^Blake Pontchartrain (26 October 2004). "Gambit Weekly". BestofNewOrleans. Archived from the original
12.)^Bill Wundram (Sunday, April 26, 2009). "Putting the President back together again". The Quad-City Times.
13.)^Monster Moves: President River Boat
14.)^"the Pride of the Mississippi". Monster Moves. National Geographic Channel
15.)^Tony Reid (13 April 2009). "A $10 million Project Will See the President, a Former Mississippi River Cruise Ship, Morphed into a Floating Hotel and Conference Center on a Lake in St Elmo, Illinois". Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill. McClatchy-Tribune Regional News.
16.)^Leisa Zigman (June 2009). "Historic St. Louis riverboat now rusted scrap". KSDK