A sternwheel steamer now docked at Portland might find a permanent home on Lewiston’s waterfront.
Western Transportation Co., Portland, plans to make a gift of the Jean, built in 1938 for river service.
And Lewiston apparently stands at the top of the list, according to John A. K. Barker, chairman of the Speech-Drama Department at Lewis-Clark State College, and Tom Cunningham, secretary of the Luna House Historical Society.
The college and the society are sponsoring “Steamboats’ A Comin,’” an organization seeking endorsements from organizations and individuals to bring the boat to Lewiston as a permanent museum of steamboat history, a tourist attraction and mini-theater.
The first endorsement will be sought Monday night from the Lewiston City Council Councilman Delitha Kilgore is a member of the “Steamboats’ A Comin’” Committee.
In a brochure prepared for the Western Transportation Co., Barker and Cunningham said the small theater would be constructed in 19th Century riverboat style.
It would be used both for summer “theatricals” and for other events such as concerts, lectures and films.
The theater would seat about 100.
“The museum,” the brochure says “would be a repository for all available materials pertinent to” Lewiston’s long steamboating history. The actual founding of the city in May, 1861, is based on the arrival of the steamer Colonel Wright from Portland. The last steamboat left Lewiston in 1940.
The steamer would be restored to resemble a river boat of the 1880s.
Barker and Cunningham said the museum would hold artifacts of steamboating, early photographs of boating on the Snake and Columbia rivers and paintings.
“Living history” tours conducted by persons in period costumes would be included.
A microfilm and audio tape research library would be included with the museum.
Interest in the possibility of acquiring the Jean began in April, 1973, when Barker and Cunningham learned that Western Transportation Co. was interested in giving the vessel away as a public relations gesture.
An initial proposal was submitted April 18, 1973, and reaffirmed with the brochure and cover letter this week.
The Portland firm plans to dispose of the vessel within two months, Barker and Cunningham said. Other bidders, the company told them, are the Museum of Marine History at Astoria, Ore., and a third party, not named.
“We stand an excellent chance,” Barker said Friday. He noted that Western Transportation will not sell the steamboat and does not want it used for commercial purposes.
If Lewiston obtains the Jean it will be towed here free of charge. The only expense at the community level will be refurbishing and maintenance. Barker and Cunningham said they feel this can be accomplished through donations and volunteer labor.
Two possible moorages have been considered thus far, they said.
One is at Hellsgate State Park south of the city, and the other is on the Snake River somewhere between the Interstate Bridge and the Lewiston Grain Growers elevator, the area in which the boats docked during the city’s steamer era.
The Jean has a draft of two feet. It is 168 feet long and 41.8 feet wide. The superstructure measures 100 feet by 30 feet.
Barker and Cunningham said they are soliciting letters of endorsement and asked that they be mailed to “Steamboats’ A Comin,’” 310 3rd St.
Other members of the committee are George King, Douglas A. MacKelvie, Carl C. Moore, Jerry Pryor and A. L. Alford Jr.
This story was published in the Feb. 23, 1975, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.