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SS Admiral was an excursion steamboat operating on the Mississippi River from the Port of St. The ship was briefly re-purposed as an amusement center in 1987, and converted to a casino in 1990. The boat was dismantled for scrap metal starting in 2011. With no bridge over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi, the railroads accessed a pair of transfer ships to shuttle railcars across. Albatross was fitted with rails built onto the deck, allowing railcars to roll onto the ship, ride a short distance aboard the ferry, then roll over to tracks on the opposite shore after the river crossing was completed.
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A bridge completed in 1930 rendered the Albatross obsolete for its intended purpose, Streckfus Steamers, a company which ran excursion boats along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, acquired the metal-hulled sidewheeler, Albatross, in 1935. The company refitted the steamer with a five-story, steel superstructure. The art deco exterior was designed by Mazie Krebs for Captain Joe Streckfus in 1933.
The young Krebs was a fashion illustrator for the St. Louis department store Famous-Barr, and neither she nor Streckfus originally took the design seriously, but she would also design another vessel for Streckfus, SS President, in 1934. From 1938 to 1940 Steamers Service Company rebuilt for more than $1,000,000 a ship with five decks, two of which were air-conditioned, an unheard-of luxury.
Her steel hull was divided into 74 compartments, of which up to 11 could be flooded with the ship still remaining afloat. The new steel framework was designed and fabricated by Banner Iron Works. The two massive piston shafts that drove the side paddle wheels were nicknamed Popeye and Wimpy and were visible from the lower deck. The SS Admiral departed on her first excursion cruise from the St. The steamer could carry as many as 4400 passengers. Among the ship's many amenities included food service, a large ballroom, and a lido deck.
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When Streckfus Steamers started excursions on the SS Admiral, they ran many all-day excursions, but later on, the market shifted toward shorter trips. Gangplanks led to the first deck, where popcorn was sold, and later, the company added a souvenir stand. The second and third decks were both air-conditioned, and together, these levels were called the "Cabin." A large ballroom—with a capacity of about 2000—occupied most of the second deck, overlooked by ceiling tiles decorated with signs of the zodiac.
Tables and booths were all around the ballroom, and there was a bandstand for live music. The second deck also included a bar and a concession stand. The third deck, also known as the mezzanine level, was surrounded by large windows, and featured several dining and lounge areas.
A large powder room on the mezzanine was named and styled for Greta Garbo. Interior furnishings and other decorations were designed in the Art Deco-mode.
The frame of the fourth level housed unglazed windows, creating a partly open-air deck. The main kitchen was located there, as well as a large lounge and dining area, with a cafeteria and a soda jerk. The top deck, or "lido deck," was the only place on the Admiral available for completely open-air lounging.
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With unobstructed views, this was a vantage point for the St. Louis Arch, the top-terraced homes on the Chouteau's Bluff, the Eads Bridge, the Martin Luther King Bridge and the Jefferson Barracks Bridge. Several coin-operated telescopes facilitated close-up views. The pilothouse, whistles, lights, and the ship's calliope were also located on the lido deck. In 1973, Streckfus Steamers converted the Admiral from steam to diesel power. The shafts for the paddlewheels were cut and removed to make way for port and starboard diesel propellers. The side-propellers and a stern-mounted propeller were all run by large Caterpillar engines. In 1979, the United States Coast Guard condemned the hull of the Admiral and prohibited the ship from plying the Mississippi.
Streckfus Steamers two years later sold the docked ship to John E. Connelly, a Pittsburgh businessman with plans to move it to his hometown, which were never realized. Louis and sold it for $1.5 million to a group of local investors, SS Admiral Partners.