Calendar of Events

Evenings Upstairs - 19th Century Steamboats Built at Communities along the Lower Ohio River

Thursday | December 06 | 7:00PM - 8:00PM

Presented by Robert Swenson, emeritus SIU Associate Professor of Architecture, retired architect, and Heritage Preservation Consultant.

Mr. Swenson will present his on-going research about 19th Century Steamboats built at towns along the Lower Ohio River. Born 1941 and raised on the lower Ohio, Mr. Swenson will share research obtained from over 50 libraries, museums, and research centers throughout the inland river system, and personal memories growing up in Metropolis - riding on the Delta Queen and listening to the late night sounds of the deep mellow steam whistles on the river while trying to sleep on hot muggy summer nights. He will share research about the over 260 steamers known to be built at Smithland, Paducah, Metropolis, Mound City, and Cairo beginning in the 1820s through the 1930s. The story includes boats that played significant roles during the Civil War, boats built for the Missouri River trade during the Gold Rush, railroad ferries, logging boats, and the 327 foot long "cotton boat" Mary Belle, one of the largest ever to ply the lower Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the 1870s.

Using digital slides supported by video clips and music, Swenson will discuss the complexity of river transportation problem-solving as part of a bigger story of the evolution of the lumber-milling, metallurgy, wood-craft, and steamboat building industries from the upper to the lower Ohio River. He will discuss hull design and engineering difficulties related to large floating wooden structures that carry heavy loads and subject to challenging river and weather conditions. Stern-wheel, center-wheel, and side-wheel propulsion systems, wood post and "Hog-chains" structural systems, and various boat types including "packet", "tow", "excursion", "cotton boat", "railroad or wagon ferry", "mail boat", "showboat", "photographer's boat", "wharf boat", "propeller tug", "snag boat", or combinations of these various functions will also be discussed. Questions and conversation will follow.

Robert Swenson, Architect is an Emeritus Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He was born in Rosiclare, IL in 1941. He is a Registered/Licensed Architect Illinois (1974-2017) and Missouri (in-active), has a BA Design & Community Development - Southern Illinois University 1965 and Master of Architecture - Yale University 1969. His private practice since 1983 includes historic preservation / restoration projects from Cairo to Springfield, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky, single and multi-family housing, rural health clinics, nursing homes up-grades and additions, associate architect for the SIU Small Business Incubator facility, regional airport terminal, community centers, educational facilities (high school, junior college, and university), recreational facilities, and several neighborhood and community parks and formal Labyrinth meditation gardens.

Mr. Swenson has regularly taught courses related to architectural design, urban design, structural engineering, and professional practice in the undergraduate and graduate programs [continuing post-retirement]. He has facilitated the development of and co-taught the Preservation Summer inter-disciplinary course related to the southernmost Illinois region between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Preservation Summer course received the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Education & Project of the Year awards from Landmarks Illinois for 2010. He received the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society. Mr. Swenson is co-Director for (Co-Principal Investigator) for the Library of Congress grant to SIUC for projects related to Lewis & Clark at the Confluence of the Rivers, including a permanent memorial to Lewis & Clark at the Confluence at Cairo, permanent exhibits at the Cairo Custom House Museum and the Cairo Public Library, digitization of early 1800s era documents for the "American Memory" Collection of the Library of Congress, development of a Southern Illinois History and Culture website, and research related to the southernmost Illinois connections to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.


2nd Floor Meeting Room

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