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Steamboat museum chugs beyond Jefferson City

by Joe Gamm, Ryan Pivoney | May 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Jefferson City will not become the home to a national steamboat museum.

That ship has sailed, according to historian and former reporter Bob Priddy.

Jefferson City, Marshall, Independence, St. Charles and other communities expressed interest in finding a home for Steamboat Arabia, which will eventually be moved from a Kansas City museum.

The steamboat is part of the Arabia Steamboat Museum, operated by David Hawley. He wishes to expand and add other steamboats to his museum, Priddy said, basically representing the decades of boats that chugged up and down the Missouri River from 1820-80.

Hawley has identified the Steamboat Malta, which is under a cornfield near Malta Bend and the Steamboat Radnor, which remains under the river near Boonville. He has vowed to excavate the boats and add them to his museum. However, room in his Kansas City museum is limited.

Priddy and several community members around Jefferson City realized Jefferson City would suit a National Steamboat Museum and tried to drum up support. But interest waned.

"Jefferson City is a logical place," Priddy said. "I don't know exactly where we are. I think Jefferson City has punted. I don't think Jefferson City is in the running."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has supported the possibility of putting the museum in St. Charles. It reported in a column Friday that the city has been negotiating with Hawley to sign a letter of intent to locate the museum in St. Charles.

Neither Marshall nor St. Charles have placed much money behind the venture, Priddy said. However, St. Charles' mayor has identified some 15 acres along the river where a museum might be placed, and Marshall has identified a location and conducted a feasibility study for the museum.

"Marshall was the only one that did an actual study," Priddy said.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has a copy of the Marshall study.

His staff, on Friday, said Marshall has been the primary location of discussion around the National Steamboat Museum.

Priddy, who wants to find a way to keep the museum in Missouri, said he's glad to see people are getting stirred up over the possibility.

The museum would be a transformational thing for any city that completes the dream to build a National Steamboat Museum, he said.

However, the possibility of the museum coming to Jefferson City remains grounded.

"Unfortunately, I'm really very sorry to say that," he said. "I thought it would be a transformational thing for Jefferson City."

Print Headline: Steamboat museum chugs beyond Jefferson City

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