The Steamboat Era Museum is proud to include among its collection the largest surviving artifact of the Chesapeake Bay steamboat era—the pilot house from the steamboat Potomac.
1894 - The Potomac was built by Neafie & Levy in Philadelphia. She was 176 feet long and 41 feet at the beam with 37 staterooms and 36 crew. She served 42 years in freight and passenger service, initially between Baltimore and the Potomac River and later, under different ownership, between Baltimore and Norfolk, including stops up the Rappahannock River.
1936 - In February 1936 the Potomac was forced into retirement after a collision with a freighter in icy waters. At this time, the automobile and bridges were marking the decline of the steamboat on the Bay and the company couldn't justify the expense of the necessary repairs. In 1938 the Potomac was sold to Colona Shipyard in Berkley, Virginia, at which time it was disassembled and made into a barge to haul pulpwood for the paper plant in West Point.
Fortunately, Captain Ben Colona preserved the ship's pilot house and officers' quarters and had it barged to Taft Beach where he used it as a second home for many years.
Over the years, this unique home changed ownership several times and began to fall into disrepair in the mid 1970s.
1990 - The pilot house we removed from Taft Beach and given to the Mariners Museum in Newport News with the intent of restoration. Some deconstruction occurred, but not restoration took place. The pilot house was later trucked to Colonial Beach where it sat without further funding for restoration.
2000 - The Potomac pilot house was donated to The Steamboat Era Museum. Awaiting funds for restoration, the pilot house was protected under a canopy on the Irvington Town Green beside the Museum, where it was a popular local landmark and attraction for visitors.
2009 - The Potomac pilot house was moved once again at the request of the Town of Irvington. The pilot house is now shrinkwrapped and awaiting the day when it can be returned to its home at The Steamboat Era Museum, fully restored for all to see. The restored pilot house will be the only place in America where visitors and researchers can step aboard the last surviving deck of a Chesapeake Bay steamboat.
The Steamboat Era Museum is a non-profit 501(c) organization.
We greatly appreciate your support.
Plan your visit to allow time for the many other museums and historic sites here in the lower Northern Neck of Virginia.
Our museum volunteers will be happy to help you plan an itinerary that matches your interests.
The Steamboat Era Museum • 156 King Carter Drive, Irvington, VA 22480 • (804) 438-6888 • Hours & Directions