The SS Columbia crossing under the Ambassador Bridge on the Detroit River in the 1970’s. Image via the SS Columbia Project

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Untapped tour guide and contributor Justin Rivers, along with Untapped Cities contributor and artist, Aaron Asis, will present an Off-Broadway staged reading to benefit the restoration of the SS Columbia, one of America’s oldest and last excursion steamers. Rivers and Asis conceptualized the piece, Glory Be Columbia, as an immersive tour that, when complete, will use theatrical storytelling, music, and visual installations placed throughout the SS Columbia to tell the boat’s 116-year story.

To celebrate, the SS. Columbia Project released rarely-seen photos exclusively to Untapped Cities. These come deep from the SSPC’s archives and shed an intimate light on the life of Columbia boat and the people it served.

Click here to become an Untapped Cities Insider and secure your free ticket to this event.

Detroit Times newspapers carriers taking a ride to the amusement island called Bob-Lo Island, Detroit’s version of New York City’s Coney Island. August 26, 1959. Image via the SS Columbia Project

This week’s debut serves both as a benefit to help the SS Columbia Project raise funds to refit the historic steamer and an Off-Broadway preview of the larger work Rivers and Asis have envisioned for the vessel.

A very early photo of the SS Columbia steaming up the Detriot River. Image via the SS Columbia Project

Rivers said, “The idea is to bring awareness to New Yorkers about this amazing boat while she’s upstate being restored. This benefit is a first-look theatrical tour of the boat from afar. Glory Be Columbia’s story revolves around a real Detroit-area woman who was closely connected to the history of the Columbia and I’m pretty sure this will be a first-of-its kind experience: An off-site tour channeling the spirit of the Columbia and those who loved to ride her.”

This photo called “Off for a Holiday on the River” shows passengers boarding the Columbia in the 1910’s. Image via the SS Columbia Project

A similar view of the SS Columbia taken at Silo City in Buffalo where Columbia is being restored. Photo by Aaron Asis

Built in 1902, Columbia is the last of her kind — a spectacular passenger steamboat and a National Historic Landmark. She combines a spectacular array of design, engineering, and aesthetic innovations. At 216’ in length and 60’ in breadth, the boat was designed to carry 3,200 passengers on her decks. Columbia is adorned with mahogany paneling, etched and leaded glass, a grand staircase, and an open-air ballroom. Once restored, the boat will be an engine for economic development in the Hudson Valley, a floating landmark for New York City and a new 30,000 square-foot cultural venue on the Hudson River — a platform for arts, education and entertainment that reconnects New York City to the Hudson Valley cities and towns.

Tired kids after a day at Bob-Lo sleeping on a bench aboard Columbia circa 1975. Image via the SS Columbia Project

The Columbia is currently docked at Silo City in Buffalo where she is undergoing stabilization and also being reactivated as a cultural venue.

The Captain of the SS Columbia standing outside the bridge, circa late 1960’s. Image via the SS Columbia Project

The boarded up bridge of the SS Columbia up in Buffalo today. Photo by Aaron Asis

Glory Be Columbia will be presented at Theatre Row in the Studio Theatre this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with a daily 7pm curtain. Running time is one hour and there will be a talkback and reception included for all those who attend Wednesday evening’s performance.

The reading is directed by Michael Joseph Ormand and will feature the talents of Milla Ilieva and Zoë Watkins. With an incidental music piece composed by Danny Asis and Josh Kopit.

Suggested donations for the event are $35 but Untapped Insiders have special access to the event for free as part of their membership. Non-Untapped Insiders Untapped can click here and enter the PRESERVATION for a discounted donation.

Next, take a Look Inside the S.S. Columbia, America’s Oldest Passenger Steamship, Now in New York State.

 hudson river, Hudson Valley, SS Columbia

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