New lease on life
GREENWICH — A paddle-wheel steamer that once hosted parties and revelry on the Greenwich waterfront is moving to another location.
The exact destination for the 110-foot party boat once known as the “Mark Twain,” most recently docked along the banks of the Byram River in Port Chester, N.Y., wasn’t officially revealed, but a massive undertaking to load up the boat for a new home overseas was taking place off the Greenwich coast.
“They’ve found a new home for the Mark Twain,” said Greenwich Harbormaster Ian Macmillan. He spent the day observing a heavy-lift freighter off Greenwich Point, making preparations to gather up the paddle-wheeler with a large crane for a long-distance ride.
The current owner of the vessel, Billie Frenz, a Greenwich musician and businessman, said the deal to relocate the ship had yet to be finalized, and he decline comment other than to say, “We’re looking for a new home.”
The ship was built in 1960 by a Los Angeles-area shipbuilder, and it’s first destination was an amusement park in the Baychester section of The Bronx called Freedomland. The ship was then called the “Canadian.”
Freedomland was a short-lived venture. The ship then caught the attention of an enterprising restaurant owner, Joe Keating. He took the vessel to the Greenwich waterfront in 1965 and re-christened it the “Mark Twain.” Keating loved the New Orleans lifestyle, and the ship was used as dockside lounge to the Showboat Hotel. That business went bust in 1989, and the Showboat Hotel gave way to the current operation, the Delamar.
The paddle-wheeler came to Port Chester in the early 2000s, where it has been the setting for jazz shows and other social events. Frenz extensively re-built the vessel, now called the “Showboat.” It can accommodate roughly 150 people and has facilities for catered events.
Maritime observers in the region were intrigued by the activity off-shore and the prospect that an old seafaring vessel was getting a new lease on life.
Jardar Nygaard, who works in the shellfish business on Long Island Sound, said he hoped the old paddle-wheeler had many more good years ahead of her.
“It’s got a lot of character, it’s really unique. And a lot of history,” he said.
The loading of the ship onto the cargo vessel was being overseen by the Coast Guard, said Macmillan, the harbormaster.