Famed Delta Queen Riverboat Will Be Chattanooga "Floating Hotel"

Harry Phillips Has Lease While Owners Seek Buyer

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
- photo by Wesley Schultz

The famed Delta Queen riverboat will be stationed on the Tennessee River at Chattanooga as a floating hotel.

Harry Phillips, owner of the Chattanooga Water Taxi and the Fat Cat Ferry, said he has reached agreement to lease the historic riverboat.

He said he is leaving Saturday for New Orleans, which was the destination for the last cruise of the Delta Queen from Cincinnati. He said he hopes the boat will be back in Chattanooga within three weeks.

The boat is set to leave New Orleans on Feb. 4 and arrive in Chattanooga between Feb. 8 and 11 depending on river conditions.

Mr. Phillips said it will be stationed at the concession area of Coolidge Park on the north side of the river.

He said it will be operated as a boutique hotel and managed by Sidney Slome. Mr. Slome also operates the StoneFort Inn on E. 10th Street, which he purchased from Mr. Phillips and his wife, Maura.

Mr. Phillips said, "This was the last operating riverboat in America and it is very, very special to have it in Chattanooga."

He said guests will stay overnight on the riverboat and enjoy a gourmet breakfast.

He said the cost may be around $125 per night.

Mr. Phillips is leasing the Delta Queen from its current owner, Ambassadors International, Inc.

He will act as caretaker for its 174-guest riverboat while Ambassadors continues searching for a buyer to operate it as an overnight cruise vessel.

The company will also continue pursuing a congressional exemption for the 82-year old vessel since federal law prohibits it from operating overnight cruise voyages without an exemption due to its wooden superstructure.

The Delta Queen is a registered historic treasure of the Department of the Interior and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is also a National Historic Landmark and a member of the National Maritime Hall of Fame. The Delta Queen was recently nominated for inclusion on the National Trust for Preservation's 2009 list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.

Diane Moore, president, Ambassadors Cruise Group, said, "The company is committed to preserving this national landmark. In order to maintain the steamboat's historical significance, provisions of the charter agreement prevent the Delta Queen from being altered.

"We selected Phillips due to his knowledge of restoring and maintaining historical properties and his maritime experience. Chattanooga's renewed waterfront is an ideal location for people to celebrate the Delta Queen and enjoy her great historical and cultural value."

Mr. Phillips, a licensed boat captain, has acquired and restored several historically significant homes in East Hartford, Conn., and in Chattanooga. He has also served on the board of directors of Cornerstones, Inc., a prominent Chattanooga non-profit organization committed to historic preservation of downtown Chattanooga properties.

Mr. Phillips is a former banker, current business owner and real estate investor who has successfully listed two of his Chattanooga downtown buildings on the National Historic Register including the StoneFort Inn, which he restored in 2003.

"The Delta Queen is a national treasure and she will be cared for accordingly until her return to overnight cruise service," said Mr. Phillips. "She truly compliments Chattanooga's vibrant waterfront. Her mooring at the North Shore's charming Coolidge Park will provide the first opportunity for all ages to experience and appreciate the last operable, and most cherished overnight passenger steamboat in the country."

Mayor Ron Littlefield said he is proud to have the Delta Queen as part of the city's waterfront. He said, "The Delta Queen is a magnificent vessel and a welcome addition to Chattanooga. Having such a beloved and unique attraction in Chattanooga adds to the continued revitalization of our city."

Although the majestic steamboat will not be able to leave the dock, Mr. Slome said he is committed to recreating the spirit of the Delta Queen for visitors and overnight guests during his service to her.

He said, "The Delta Queen is a glorious tribute to our river history, and it is my honor to serve her."

The boat has 87 cabins consisting of queens, doubles, bunk beds, and suites, and an abundance of properly appointed common areas. Mr. Slome plans to book Delta Queen's entertainment venues and offer Dixieland jazz and shows ranging from cabarets to musical revues. Group tours will be available, allowing visitors to learn first-hand about steam technology-a mode of transportation that helped revolutionize the world.

The Chattanooga Water Taxi service connects both shores, and will expand its schedule as necessary to accommodate the demand from residents, tourists, and guests who would like to visit the Delta Queen.

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