, 2015

Museum to restore
Potomac’s pilothouse

IRVINGTON—The board of directors of the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington recently announced plans to restore the pilothouse of the steamboat Potomac and bring the artifact into the main exhibit hall as its center attraction. The announcement was made at the annual meeting on May 16.

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The Steamboat Era Museum plans to restore the pilothouse of the Potomac as its main exhibit.

According to president Eric Nost, the target date for completion of this project is the summer of 2017.

The pilothouse is the only known surviving intact section of a Chesapeake Bay steamboat that provided passenger service to and from Baltimore for residents in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland and Virginia.

The Potomac was built in 1894 in Philadelphia for the Maryland & Virginia Steamboat Company. It was 176 feet in length and included 37 staterooms and a crew of 36. The Potomac served 42 years in freight and passenger service, initially between Baltimore and the Potomac River. Later, under different ownership, it also served between Baltimore and Norfolk, including ports along the Rappahannock River. The Potomac was forced into retirement after it collided with a freighter during dense fog in 1936.

Two years later, the Potomac was sold to the Colona Shipyard in Berkley, where it was disassembled and made into a barge for hauling pulp wood to the West Point paper mill. During its conversion into a barge, Capt. Ben Colona preserved the pilothouse and the adjoining officer’s quarters and had them shipped to White Stone Beach for use as his personal summer cottage which he maintained for several decades. It then changed ownership several times and by the 1970s had fallen into poor condition and disrepair.

In 1990, the pilothouse was given to the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News with the intent of restoration.

However, it was later given to the Town of Colonial Beach where it also remained unrestored. With its formation in 2000, the Steamboat Era Museum acquired the pilothouse and brought it to Irvington where it was on display next to the museum for several years.

Today, the pilothouse sits covered in shrink-wrap at the White Stone boatyard of Capt. Meredith Robbins.

The restoration project is a major financial undertaking for the museum which expects to unveil plans for a fundraising campaign in the near future, reported executive director Barbara Brecher.

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