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Spring 2020 Newsletter


Big Changes at the Howard – Spring 2020


This year has brought some big changes to the Howard Steamboat Museum.  Roger Fisher ended a very successful term as president of our Board of Directors.  While he is staying on as a board member, he was a very successful president. The most major achievement he made was to champion and bring to completion the renovation of and repurposing of our historic Carriage House.  Had he not been forward thinking and approached this when and how he did, the building could have been lost and what has become a major form of financial support for the museum would have been lost.  Our hats off to Roger for his hard work and dedication to our cause…job well done, Sir!

In his place we welcome Judith G. VanGilder, life-long Jeffersonville resident and former assistant to our Mayor.  Her connections in this community are already showing their value!  Her excitement and hands on approach to campus operations is amazing.  She has the energy of 10 people wrapped up with a “down to earth” personality that makes you an instant friend.  We have great faith in her abilities and know she will make our members, guests, and community proud!

In January we were saddened to receive a retirement letter from a beloved leader of the museum and one of our most avid supporters, Keith Norrington our long-time director and curator.  He has come to the point in life where he wishes to focus on his family life and retire while he is able to enjoy it.  We wouldn’t be where we are today had it not been for his leadership, dedication, knowledge, and overall love of the museum.  He had several successes at the museum, more than we have time to document here.  The renovation of the office space, development of the Collections Management Facility, and the moving of the gift shop to the back porch entrance are small part of a large list. While he is retiring, he is just a phone call away to assist us, and we will rely on that!

Our new director/curator is Travis C. Vasconcelos.  He came to the museum in fall of 2014 after a 3-year stint on the Str. AMERICAN QUEEN as its Riverlorian, or onboard historian, a position he had previously held on her former sisterships the Str. DELTA QUEEN and Str. MISSISSIPPI QUEEN.  He is also the Sunday afternoon calliope player on the Str. BELLE OF LOUISVILLE.  Travis came to the museum first in 1978 and became a member at the age of 13.  Volunteering on our Collections Committee for the last 10 years and working as the administrative assistant for Mr. Norrington for the last 5 years, he is ready to take on this new challenge.  He brings a life-long love of river history, experience in the passenger vessel industry, and a great desire to take the museum into this new decade stronger and more vibrant.

Yet something is very different this year.  Because of the COVID-19 challenges, we have not had the springtime gift of welcoming guests and field trips to the museum.  The staff is staying home and the director is using this time to work on some projects around the museum.  When the health emergency is over we will open our doors with a new excitement!  Watch our website (at for information on our reopening date and for any updates along the way.

The little museum that can and does won’t let a virus get us down! Not at all!  We are using this time to get some cleaning and sprucing up done.  The gift shop is being renovated and new items are coming in. There is a little surprise coming up in this newsletter that is also taking up some of our time.

Later this year we will be having some special events on campus that we sincerely hope you will join us for.   First up is a special concert opportunity.  On the 12th of June we have a guest taking the stage that is sure to blow your socks off, Michael Cleveland and his band Flamethrower!  This is our second concert event and surely to be one of many to come.  Michael Cleveland is a recent Grammy Winner who is one of the most amazing fiddle virtuosos on the planet.  Combined with his band, this is a bluegrass event like no other!  Read on in the newsletter for more details about this great concert event.

In September our Fourth Annual Car Show Fund Raiser will take to the grounds and bring with it family fun and lots of great cars to ogle and enjoy!

In October we have our annual River Ramblings guest speaker.  This year we will have Ted Guillaum former Purser for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company telling us what life was like bringing out the new MISSISSIPPI QUEEN and hosting a seated U.S. President on the DELTA QUEEN.  Some of these stories have never been told to the public, so plan to be there and hear them all!.

Check out all the excitement in this newsletter and plan to join us for all of the fun.  Once we get the nation back to health from the Coronavirus, we have a great year ahead and there will be a great deal of family fun on the campus of the Howard Steamboat Museum

Welcome home to the Howards!



Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper come to the Carriage House. First show of the 2020 season in our Carriage House Concert Series

On the 12th of June 2020 the Carriage House will reverberate with the phenomenal talents of 2020 Grammy Winner Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper.  Advance tickets can be purchased at

Tickets are $50.00 in advance and $50.00 at the door (if we have any left to sell).  The doors open at 5:30pm with a BBQ dinner, drinks and bar service available for purchase.  There will also be a meet-and-greet event prior to the show.  The show starts promptly at 7:00pm.

This show is selling fast, so order your tickets today!


The Howard Steamboat Museum is now offering

Lunch and Learning Tours

We can combine a tour of our facility with a catered meal in our newly-restored 1880’s vintage Carriage House.  Everything is included at one location right on our campus!  There is plenty of space for your motor coach to load, unload, and park, mere feet from the entrance to the museum campus.

Do you have a group that is looking for a new venue to explore?  How about a church group which needs a fun fellowship outing?  Are you looking for an educational experience for your Sunday School class, Boy Scout troop, Girl Scout troop, after-school care group?  How about that senior group or club?


Here is what to expect

We will have a meal ready for your guests when you arrive. The meal will be served in Bales Hall, inside our newly restored Carriage House. Once lunch is over, we will show a short film detailing the era of the Howard Shipyard before you walk a few feet across the lawn to the mansion.

Our docents will be standing at the ready to introduce your guests to another time when the lavish Victorian lifestyle, river travel, and steamboats were a way of life. A self-guided tour of the museum with our staff staged in the mansion to answer your questions, will allow everyone to take in this exquisite gem at their own pace.

A little about the buildings on our campus

The Carriage House is a historic structure with its unique architectural charms, fully climate-controlled interior, and sparkling restrooms. The dining area (Bales Hall) is a beautiful place to enjoy your meal with its soaring 40’ ft vaulted ceilings, open cupula, and exposed beam construction.

The Howard family Richardsonian Romanesque-styled mansion, built by the shipyard crew between 1890 and 1894, features a restored first floor with original family furnishings (many of which came from the fabled 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition), 15 different types of wood, and original gasolier chandeliers throughout.  Keep in mind we are the only steamboat museum in the nation. While there are several museums throughout the nation focused on specific vessels and rivers, we are the only museum focused on the history of the steamboat, located in the premier steamboat builders home.

Details on the program

We can accommodate large groups (30-50 people) comfortably.  We do require at least a three week advanced reservation to accommodate your group and provide adaquate staffing.

We can customize an experience to accommodate your needs with possibilities, like having a docent aboard your bus to prepare them for the experience, a video presentation to introduce the Howard family legacy, docents staged throughout the mansion to answer your group’s questions with personal service.  We are looking forward to sharing this great facility with your special group!

These packages are only available Tuesday – Friday, from 11:00am until 2:00pm. We require a minimum of 20 people for a booking. We require a 50% deposit.  Balance due at time of tour.  Deposits are 50% refundable if cancelled two weeks prior to your scheduled tour. We will include your tour guide and one bus driver at no additional cost.

Please call us to discuss menu options and dietary restrictions.  With sufficient notice we will make every attempt to accommodate your needs.

Call us at (812) 283.3728 and find out what wonderful opportunities we have to offer your group

Carriage House Rentals

As you are probably already aware, the Carriage House is up and running.  Our manager, Mrs. Bonnie Poore, is booking the beautiful venue almost constantly.  She is available via phone at (812) 913-4591 or email at

If you have a family event coming up, think about using the Carriage House as a location.  Bonnie is well versed in what it takes to make your event perfect.  From caterers, to decorations, to entertainment, she is on top of it and will make your event the talk of the town!

Our interior space is comprised of two unique venues – a reception hall and the spacious Bales Hall.  We feature a state-of-the-art audio/visual system, historic finishes and appointments, and space you have to see to believe.  Then there is our warming kitchen that is ready for your professional caterer to provide you with the finest culinary delights.  We have a bar that serves both in and out of doors for your caterer to utilize as well.

Bring the outside in with our 3-season heated veranda featuring weather blocking Kevlar drapes to keep you warm and/or dry when the weather is teasing us.  We also have our pavilion deck with charming chairs and tables to spread the crowd out.  When night falls the pavilion deck has a unique lighting system to encourage a great time for your group!

It’s the versatility of the space that makes the place and we have the perfect versatile space for your event!  Call Bonnie now at (812) 913-4591 to set up an appointment to see what a wonderful event you can plan for your guests!  One thing is for sure, it’s sure to be the talk of the town!


Fourth Annual Howard Steamboat Museum Car Show Fundraiser

On 12, September 2020 we are planning our Fourth Annual Howard Steamboat Museum Car Show Fund Raiser.  The first three events were such a huge success (over 80 unique cars!); we are excited to be planning another one for the public to enjoy!

Once again, Clark Memorial Hospital has graciously stepped up as a sponsor of the show.  If your organization is interested in being a sponsor, donating items for our raffle, or participating with us in this really fun fund raiser, please contact us and let us know at (812) 283-3728 or email

Do you have a car you’d like to show at the show?  We will have plaques for the winners of each class and you’ll have a lot of admirers enjoying all your hard work!  You can register your car in only one of 9 classes.  The classes are Modern American, Classic American, British, MINI, Asian, Corvette, Mustang, Diamond in the Rough, and Other.  The cost of registration is $18.00 if you preregister (no later than 4:00pm on the 4th of September 2020) or $20.00 at the venue on the day of the show. To register your car, please contact us at (812) 283-3728 or email

Like the first show, admission is free to the public.  The museum will be open during the event, operating at reduced admission rates.  We will have a great selection of cars for your perusal.  We will have a food booth with unique and fun options to tempt your taste buds!

If you want to see a particular car win a plaque, buy a vote and help them win!  It’s all for a good cause.  We will have a 50/50 drawing at the end of the day and our great raffle drawings.

The Carriage House will be open as a respite for your dining pleasure.  We are going to allow select vendors to use this climate-controlled space at an additional fee as well.

The event will be on 12, September 2020 from 10:00am until 3:00pm on the historic Howard Steamboat Museum Campus.  If we have  bad weather on the 12th, the event will be rescheduled on the 13th of September at the same times.

All proceeds from this event go toward the operations of the museum.  Thank you for your generous support of this community and steamboatin’ gem!


River Ramblings

This year’s River Ramblings will be on Saturday, the 11th of October 2020 in our spectacular Carriage House Event Center on the Museum campus.  The event will begin promptly at 3:00pm and admission is $5.00 per person.

Because the last seasonal public cruise for the Str. BELLE OF LOUISVILLE is the day before, we know a lot of our dedicated steamboat fans will be in town and we hope you will stay over and visit us for this great afternoon we have planned.

Should you wish to tour the museum prior to the talk, you can buy your ticket for the talk starting at 1:00 pm on the 11th and see both the museum and the talk for $10.00.  Talk about a steamboatin’ bargain!

This year our River Ramblings talk will feature Mr. Ted Guillaum, former Purser for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.  He will address us from a different prospective than we are used to, that of the Passenger Services Representative or the front of the house person who deals with the day to day operations of the hotel side of the overnight riverboat business.  Mr. Guillaum was Purser for the first steps out of the shipyard for the fabled MISSISSIPPI QUEEN and saw some interesting situations pop up when things went terribly wrong on the new steamboat.  He also plans on sharing stories of coordinating the hotel efforts aboard the legendary DELTA QUEEN when a seated President (Jimmy Carter) came to spend a week aboard the venerable vessel.

This should be a great afternoon of stories and learning here at the museum.  We genuinely hope you will join us for all the fun!


A new day coming for a most unique historic advertising tool

Last fall the Howard Steamboat Museum was fortunate to have a most unique donation in the form of a historic air-operated calliope built by Cozatt Organ Company of Moline, IL. in 1958.

This isn’t just any air calliope, no, it is the air calliope that was donated to the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE in 1962 by Mr. Wendell Smock, Louisville Industrialist and owner of the Vulcan- Hart Company.  The BELLE was without a calliope when the City of Louisville purchased her for $34,000 at the auction in May of 1962, for it had sold in a previous lot (along with much of her furniture).

In 1966, the late Mr. Smock’s family (he was tragically killed in an auto accident on the 22nd of December 1964) came back to the boat with a brand-new steam calliope to replace the relatively quiet (by comparison) air-operated instrument and honor their late relatives wishes.

The Cozatt Calliope found its way to fairs and festivals representing the BELLE until sold in the early 1970’s to the Kosair Shrine in Louisville.

They used it for many years until it fell into a state of disrepair.  One of the members of a new group, Clowns, Inc. chased it down and restored it.  They used it a lot in the late 1990’s in parades and even built a very period authentic circus wagon for it to be displayed in.

As the years passed, Clowns Inc. found it harder and harder to carry on, as many of their members were passing on and no new members were interested.  They resolved to find a new home for the historic calliope.  In a last-minute twist of fate, the calliope almost was sold into private hands when it was discovered that donating it from one 501©3 organization to another was a much easier way to handle the tax liability.  Your scribe was called in to assess the condition of the instrument and found it to be in a state of major disrepair, but easily salvageable.

In early August of 2019 the calliope was brought to the museum, thanks to Capt. Pete O’Connell of Louisville who pulled the float from Oldham County Kentucky to the museum. It attracted quite a lot of attention along the way!

For the last few months it has been a project of our director to bring the instrument back to life.  With the volunteer assistance of board member Capt. Michael Fitzgerald and Capt. Pete O’Connell, the circus wagon is becoming a sternwheeled steamboat.  While the project isn’t yet done, you can be assured that once it is, she will be in every local parade, on our campus, and who knows, maybe even available for your private party.

Watch this newsletter for updates on this great gift to the museum!


Volunteers needed

We are looking for a few good people.  Do you like to talk with and meet people from all over the country?  Are you interested in sharing local history with visitors?

The Howard Steamboat Museum can use your talents!

We are seeking four people who can be volunteer docents for the museum, interpreting the house and collection for our visitors.  We would like to have people who can work from 10:00am until 4:00pm at least one day a week.  We aren’t always busy and you will have the museum at your disposal to read, learn, and explore in your free time.  We will train you in what you need to know.  Our belief is that we give you the tools and you make those facts blossom for our guests in your own way.  You will be expected to greet our guests as they arrive, assist them in a tour of the museum, handle sales of gift shop items, and balance your cash drawer at the end of the shift.  It is a lot of fun and you sure meet some interesting people along the way.  Contact us at  or call us at (812) 283-3728 and let us know just how interested you are!


Museum Wish List

Donations and bequests are gratefully received. The Clark County Historical Society/Howard Steamboat Museum, Inc. is a 501©3 organization. Therefore, your gift may be tax deductible. Kindly contact your tax consultant for details.

The museum receives no regular federal, state, county or city tax dollars. Occasional grants from a variety of entities are used to fund special projects.

The museum always has basic needs to function properly.  We are grateful for all the support we receive from the community and our guests.  However, there are a number of things we need for daily operation.  If you have these items or know of someone who may be willing to donate them to us, we would be very appreciative

Office Supplies

  • Printer paper
  • Ink Pens (black and blue)
  • Tape
  • Post-it-Notes
  • Stamps (Forever stamps, preferred)
  • #6 ¾” Envelopes
  • File folders (standard manilla and hanging)


Housekeeping and Household Supplies

  • Coffee (reg. and decaf)
  • Vacuum cleaner bags (A-Type)
  • Window cleaner
  • Disinfectant cleaner and spray
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels (regular)
  • Paper towels (for electronic dispenser)
  • Cleaning rags
  • Garbage bags (kitchen size and full size)
  • Toilet tissue
  • Toilet cleaner



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