Friday Flashbacks: The Belle of Louisville


Posted on October 9, 2009 at 6:56 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 14 at 1:54 PM

(WHAS11) A special Friday flashback; the Belle of Louisville turns 95 on Sunday, with a special party at 2:00 p.m.

WHAS11 wasn't there 95 years ago, but as we discovered, we were there on that day in 1962, when the Belle first arrived on the Louisville wharf; looking like a mess. WHAS crews grabbed their film cameras and floated out to the boat.

The steamboat had carried cattle and pigs for most of its life, it's paint was peeling, it was beaten up. The county judge had bought it at auction. ?The steamboat was days away from the scrap yard' the price: $34,000.

They couldn't wait to rename it. On that first day they used hand-painted stencils, with the new name, Belle of Louisville.

Up on the top deck, WHAS 11 reporter, David Dick, interviewed crew members with the bridge in the background.

On the day the public would finally see the boat, at the 4th Street wharf back then, cars were parked right to the water on the cobblestone.

It was all smiles as the captain yelled, all aboard!

The Belle's boiler room that operates the boat, is a showplace today just like it was then. Many of the original parts still exist, well-preserved.

And today, 95 years old this Sunday, the city and other groups continue to give money to the boat; with air conditioning on the way for the first time in its history next year.

The belle's 95th birthday party is this Sunday. There will be a birthday cruise, a cake, hats and streamers. The boat leaves at 2:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon from the Fourth Street wharf and will arrive back around 4:00 p.m.

It will be the first viewing of the belle since the recent renovations by the Hampton Inn.

Viewers react to our Friday Flashback:

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your reporting and I just finished watching your story on the Belle of Louisville. When I graduated from Manual High School in 1959 we rode on the boat but as you stated it was the Avalon back then and before that I think it was called the Idlewild. I also remember your report on Rose Island and even though it was gone before my time I can remember my grandparents telling me stories about going there and taking my father and his siblings up there on Sunday afternoons for picnics and a day of fun .When I was growing up my grandparents lived down the street from Fountain Ferry Part and my sister and I spent every weekend there at the part . In telling these stores you have brought back so many childhood memories that my family shared . I just wanted to thank you for that .

I am a big fan of WHAS and have watched it for all of my news and weather . You all do a great job .

Sandy St Clair