MARIETTA, Ohio – Marietta resident Bee Rutter remembers making the journey from Brownsville, Pa., to Marietta aboard the W.P. Snyder, a trip she described as a “five-day party.”
That was 59 years ago, when the 96-year-old sternwheeler was purchased by the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and the then-Ohio Historical Society for $1.
Thursday, Rutter stood on the banks of the Muskingum River at the Ohio River Museum to watch the Snyder return after months of repairs and several delays.
“It’s just good as new inside and out,” she said. “I hope to get back on it as soon as possible, as I have every summer it has been here.”
The Snyder recently finished about $1 million in repairs that lasted seven months. It was due to return home from Henderson, W.Va., on May 8, but high and fast river levels kept the vessel docked at the Lafayette Hotel.
After crews from Amherst Madison took the sternwheeler to Vienna for safety reasons, it finally got to return home Thursday to a small crowd of excited fans that lined the banks to sneak a peek at her return.
“It’s such an interesting process, and it really is amazing to watch,” said Marietta resident Ann Anderson. “I’ve never lived on a river growing up, and it’s truly a unique experience.”
The Snyder underwent a major overhaul of its exterior, from a new electric system to new paint, which project coordinator Fred Smith of the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, said is still a working process.
“You can’t argue with Mother Nature, that’s just the way it is,” he said. “We had to be flexible and wait it out, and though it would have been nice to get it here while kids were still in school, it’s here now.”
Smith said while docked at its home at the museum, crews will continue to finish the new electrical system that includes new lights.
“The crew really gave it their all; as if it was their own boat,” he said. “Now, it’s as pristine as it was in 1955…”