W.P. Snyder renovation efforts paddling forward

Photo by Janelle Patterson The paddlewheel of the W.P. Snyder Jr. is covered to keep dry for a coming fresh coat of red paint during final renovations this year.

MARIETTA — Just below the Washington Street Bridge a national historic treasure is under the final phase of years worth of renovations with hopes of completion before its centennial birthday.

“This is basically dealing with the interior,” explained Bill Reynolds, the historian of the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums, where the W.P. Snyder is open for public tours. “We want the W.P. Snyder to look like it did when the boat came to Marietta in 1955, like the crew just walked off the boat.”

The Snyder turns 100 next year and if all goes to plan, it will have new coats of paint, table and quarters staging, a shining boiler room, engine room and pilot house by the new year.

The boat will not have to leave Marietta for this phase of work, as it did for two previous phases. For Phase I, the Snyder was missing for its Muskingum River home for nearly a year. Again for Phase II in 2013, it had to go elsewhere for work for about seven months.

But tours will still continue through the end of September and by request for groups throughout the remainder of this year if the Ohio River Museum is given enough notice.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Bill Reynolds talks about the new paint to go up in the historic W.P. Snyder Jr., located near the Washington Street Bridge in Marietta.

“We just need time to alert the crews working on painting so that we can coordinate,” said Reynolds.

The boat was built in 1918 by James Rees and Sons and was first called the W.H. Clingerman before a name change and major renovation in 1937 when it was dubbed the J.L. Perry.

“In 1937 it went through a huge remodeling with a hull widening by three feet,” explained Fred Smith, the manager of Architectural Services for the Ohio History Connection. “They made the boiler bigger so that she could compete with the diesel boats and could tow more coal barges.”

Then in 1945 the boat was once again renamed the A-1 before its final name change later that year when Crucible Steel purchased the steam-powered boat and named it the W.P. Snyder Jr.

The boat was decommissioned in 1955 and by the efforts of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen group, the boat was donated to the State of Ohio and remains the only boat of its kind still in existence.

Photo by Janelle Patterson One of the quarters inside the W.P. Snyder Jr. is freshly painted as renovations are underway for the final major phase of upgrades.

“It’s a ‘pool boat,’ meaning it was built primarily to move coal between the dams on big rivers,” said Reynolds. “This was a working boat and we want to preserve that history and show what it would have looked like, from the living quarters to the dinner table, how those who worked on these boats would have lived.”

This final phase will complete more than 10 years of major projects funded predominantly through grants and donations with some state capital matching funds.

Phase I began in 2005 and was completed in 2010 at a total cost of $1,468,000, and replaced the hull of the boat.

Phase II was completed in 2014 for a total cost of $958,000 and completed major work on the main and boiler decks. Phase III has been underway for a few weeks with the roofs replaced and now interior paint to go up before period-staging begins.

For the first phase the state input was $876,000, the second saw a $222,000 contribution from the state and this third phase will only see $42,200 coming from the state capital fund of a $503,200 project. The remaining $140,800 local match is funded through private donations and local grants to the project while two major grants fund the other $320,220.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Metalwork throughout the W.P. Snyder Jr. has seen repairs during renovations.

The grants covering the $320,220 are a National Maritime Heritage Grant through the National Parks Service (100,000) and a Historic Transportation Methods Grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives program ($220,220).