The Goldenrod Showboat’s long story appears to have ended with a fire early Saturday in Illinois’ Calhoun County.
Preservationists for years have worked to try to preserve the historic 108-year-old showboat, which shut down in 2001 after decades on the St. Louis and St. Charles riverfronts.
But early Saturday, the orange glow of a fire two miles to the north could be seen from Kampsville, North Calhoun Fire Department Chief Gary Hall said. It came from where the vessel was moored on the Illinois River.
By the time firefighters arrived the boat was mostly gone.
“It was already completely down when firefighters got there,” Hall said. “Three-quarters of it had already fallen into the hull.”
Hall said he has no idea how long the structure burned before the glow was seen in town.
“They had moved it out of town because of too many complaints,” he said. Hall indicated that there was concern that someone would get hurt if they attempted to go onto the deteriorating structure.
The boat had for years barely dodged the scrap-heap, while some held hope it would be restored. After the vessel was deemed too damaged to be repaired in 2015, preservationists removed many items from the interior, including tin walls, chandeliers and stained glass windows. In May, the boat was flooded with seven to eight feet of Illinois River water.
The Goldenrod was built in 1909 and for years moved around the Midwest before mooring at St. Louis in 1937. In 1968 it was declared a national historic landmark.
The city of St. Charles bought the boat in 1990, and it operated there as a stationary dinner theater. The boat shut down in 2001 after a U.S. Coast Guard safety check found significant problems. The city gave the boat to a businessman who moved it to the Kampsville area for storage in 2008 after failing to find a use for it; he donated the boat to the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association.