The Lowell Showboat is Back!
For many years, the "Robert E. Lee" Lowell Showboat sailed up and down the Flat River in Lowell, while the crowd was entertained by a variety of different kinds of acts. The Showboat operated for 85 years, until being shut down in 2017. Now, in 2020, a new Lowell Showboat has been christened!
According to the history of the vessel, from the Lowell Showboat Facebook page, in 1932 the people of Lowell came up with an annual project which they hoped would lift the hearts of the people through the Great Depression and would become a true community event. This project was the Lowell Showboat with a local talent show. The entertainment would be staged on a riverboat, with the islands and town providing an appropriate setting. The music, dancing and the minstrel shows started a long Lowell tradition.
The first performance was on August 10, 1932 and it was estimated that 7,000 people attended the four night shows. The first Showboat was called the George Washington and was constructed on empty oil barrels."
A few years later, in 1935, a new boat, called the Robert E. Lee, was built. This showboat had two decks, was 90 feet long and 24 feet wide, However, the Showboat productions were canceled in 1942 through 1945 because of World War II. In 1946, the Showboat once again floated down the Flat River.
Along the way there were many new boats or upgrades done to the Lowell Showboat. In the 60s and 70s many television stars were performing on the Showboat, including Louis Armstrong, Dinah Shore, Pearl Bailey, Steve Allen and Jane Meadows.
It wasn't always smooth sailing for the showboat. On August 19th, 1978, there was an early morning wind that caused a great deal of damage by lifting the Showboat from the river and smashing it upside down on the dock. The Robert E. Lee was completely rebuilt by Lowell contractor Ivan Blough .
In the years that followed, many rained-out shows and unexpected production costs had placed the Showboat in debt and the boat was showing it's age. The Robert E. Lee was shut down in January of 2017. A press release said that the Lowell Showboat had served the city well, but had outlived its expected lifespan. The structure was closed with the “health, safety and welfare of citizens” in mind. The old boat was demolished in February of 2019.
Over the last year, an all new Lowell Showboat has been built. It was christened last Wednesday, October 14th. It made an interesting voyage to it's dock by rolling along the street on giant airbags before being moved into place.
Here is a great video about the history of the Showboat...
The new Lowell Showboat will be used as a year-round hub for different events and meetings in the community.