Delta Queen – Good news/Sad news

The Delta Queen will soon become a hotel in Chattanooga. That's "good news" because the historic paddlewheeler has a new life and Chattanooga’s riverfront a wonderful new addition. But "sad news," too. The Delta Queen will be docked, not cruising, and the hotel/ship will be on the TN River, not the Mighty Mississippi.

Photo at right by Alan Spearman. Click "read more" below for The Commercial Appeal article.

Delta Queen getting new life -- as a hotel
It's no choo choo, but it's headed to Chattanooga
By Bartholomew Sullivan, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The historic Delta Queen paddle boat, decommissioned as a passenger carrier in October, is going to Chattanooga for use as a waterfront boutique hotel.

Maura Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry, the new lessee, said the Delta Queen will leave New Orleans in early February and be moored at Coolidge Park Landing across from the city's huge aquarium. The boat has 87 cabins.

The Delta Queen lost its longtime U.S. Coast Guard exemption to carry overnight guests on Nov. 1. It is tied up in New Orleans and will soon head to East Tennessee to become a hotel.

Company owner Harry Phillips, a licensed boat captain and former banker, said he is committed to historic preservation and the Delta Queen will be cared for accordingly until it can be returned to open water. He said the boat's safety equipment exceeds that of many hotels.

"We're going to take good care of her," he added.

The National Historic Landmark lost its longtime U.S. Coast Guard exemption to carry overnight guests on Nov. 1 because of its wooden superstructure. Ambassadors International Inc., its California-based owner, and a group of enthusiasts organized as "Save the Delta Queen" are continuing to pursue the exemption so that it can return to cruising the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

The Delta Queen's last port of call as a passenger ship was at the north end of Mud Island in Memphis. It then went down river with only its crew and is currently tied up in New Orleans.

Vicki Webster, a spokeswoman for the Save the Delta Queen group, said "the only good thing" about turning the 82-year-old vessel into a hotel is that it gets out of what she called a "bad neighborhood" in New Orleans where it is subject to vandalism and ramming by industrial ships.

The Save the Delta Queen effort asked former President George W. Bush to extend the boat's exemption by executive order in the last weeks of his presidency to no avail. A Kentucky preservationist is seeking to have it placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "11 Most Endangered" list that comes out in April.