The Belle of Louisville has taken the top prize in the 10th Annual National Historic Landmark Photo Contest, beating out St. Louis’ Gateway Arch and a pueblo in Taos, NM. Over 200 photos were submitted to the National Parks Service and the winners are featured in a 2010 event planner. (If only that were Louisville’s skyline in the background!) Pleasant Hill also was included as an honorable mention.
Here’s a bit of history from the National Park Service:
Belle of Louisville, launched in 1914 as Idlewild from Pittsburgh, is one of only two sternwheel river passenger boats operating under steam and is the sole remaining Western Rivers day packet boat. When she was built, the boat served primarily as a ferry. In later years, she served as a day packet carrying freight and passengers, an excursion boat carrying tourists, and a towboat during the Second World War. Today, the Belle of Louisville serves as an excursion steamboat on the Ohio River in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. With its canopied pilothouse, jaunty stacks, and sternwheel, the Belle of Louisville epitomizes the majestic riverboat era on America’s western waters.
The Belle of Louisville is one beloved vessel and was the inspiration for a ragtime song written in 1990 by Frank French which has become a modern ragtime classic. Much like the photo, it evokes the grand old days of Louisville’s riverboat era. Click here if the video below doesn’t work. I recommend turning on the video and staring at the photo for a few minutes.