Monday, February 21, 2011

St. Louis Gave Up on the Admiral Years Ago

The Admiral riverboat (photo from KWMU)

I read with a bit of sadness this weekend the stl today story telling that the Admiral will soon be on its way to the scrap yard where it will be unceremoniously sliced to pieces with cutting torches. But then I thought about it and realized that St. Louisans haven't cared about the Admiral, or the riverfront in general for that matter, for decades. After the almost 40 year stretch of river cruises ended in 1979, the boat was in limbo until 1987 when Six Flags tried to reopen it as an entertainment center which failed miserably. In 1994 the boat was converted to gambling casino. By then, there was almost nothing left on the interior of the boat to tell you that it was once a great art deco cruising vessel. For the next 16 years people came to the not to see the river or admire the Admiral's streamlined stainless steel architecture (which was largely hidden by the goofy light blue mooring structure, but to play the slots or try their luck at the black jack table.

Admiral Cruise
An early cruise aboard the Admiral. Photo from a Post-Dispatch gallery

After Pinnacle closed the boat last year, there was plenty of opportunity for someone to buy the Admiral and come up with a creative re-use for it. It was even on ebay for a while! But no one came through for the shiny symbol of years past. To my grandparents and somewhat my parents generation, the Admiral was one of THE places to go for fun, as was Gaslight Square. Like Gaslight Square though the luster of the Admiral faded and like Gaslight Square, most of the later generations including ours were oblivious to the to the former shining stainless steel star of the riverfront and ambivalent about the vessel's ultimate fate.

The story of its demise is listed in stl today's "most read stories" column, but I'd be interested to see the average age of the readers. I went to the fixture sale a few months ago and it seemed there were only a few like me who simply came to see the Admiral, most were milling around trying to get a bargain on crappy furnishings and equipment. St. Louis had its chance to see the Admiral carry on to some new life for future generations to enjoy, but instead it let that chance simply float away down the river.


Robert Powers said...

Thank you for posting this. I haven't had the heart to post anything myself... or maybe I just can't believe this is actually happening. What a catastrophe.

Amy in StL said...

My mom tells a story about going on a date aboard the Admiral and discovering when she got there that her new dress almost exactly matched the wallpaper behind her.

I think part of the problem was finding someplace for someone to put the Admiral. I honestly thought it would eventually end up by Concreteland in North City.

Anonymous said...

I went to Horace Mann Elementary School from 1965-1973 (K-8), later graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1977, and took dance lessons all those years just across the street (from Mann) at Miss Hadley's Dance Studio. Our dance recitals in those later years were on The Admiral, which was such a wonder-filled experience - it was magical.

I grew up in a real community and have fond memories of such a wonderful, steadfast, architecturally rich and true immigrant city. Reading of the lack of appreciation and respect for the history of St. Louis buildings and communities saddens me, and current and future generations are truly missing out. Keep fighting to keep the foundations and keep telling their stories - our stories.

Anonymous said...

We were talking about the admiral at work and telling stories about the times we used to go on her. It was glamorous. People wanted to look nice and enjoy themselves. I danced on the admiral with a dance troop in the afternoon's. My biggest memory of how impressed I was as a child was the bathrooms. It was like in the movies. Down stairs there were all different machines for kids to play. Something for everyone. Sorry the young people won't be able to have the wonderful memories.