Rome historian Bob Harris is still lobbying to have the Myra H riverboat, currently being restored in a General Electric storage building in West Rome, put on permanent display in the area of the Rome-Floyd County ECO Center.
Funding for the restoration is being funneled through the Rome Area Heritage Foundation. Harris said they have enough money to complete the restoration but do not have enough to construct what they think is needed. They wish to put it on display and have as many as 10,000 children a year walk through it and see what river travel looked like 80 years ago.
Harris spoke to the Rome Kiwanis Club Tuesday, telling the civic club that volunteers have put in more than 550 man hours of volunteer labor to restore the vessel that was constructed in 1932 by Roman Pierce Harris.
The Myra H was built for Pierce Harris in 1932 and named for his daughter. It broke loose from moorings off the Oostanaula River during flooding in the 1940s. When the flood waters receded, Harris left it right where it was and it became more of a cabin than a riverboat for the next three decades.
A group put together by the late Dr. C.J. Wyatt managed to convince Harris to donate the boat to the Junior Service League and kept it on the grounds of the Chieftains Museum for a number of years before the JSL basically turned it over to the community and it was moved to Lock & Dam Park.
Over the past 30 years, it was openly exposed to the weather and the boat’s condition deteriorated almost to the point of rotting away.
“We’ve got a chance to save something and not let it fade away,” Harris said.
That’s when model boat builder Bob Harris put together a group of volunteers willing to try to save a slice of Rome’s river history. They were able to move it to a storage building on the giant General Electric campus in West Rome in February of 2018.
Volunteers have spent the last year and a half completely refurbishing the old vessel and expect to have the work completed sometime late this summer or early fall.
“This is not a reproduction. We’re saving as much of the original boat as we can,” Harris said.
The historian Harris said he hopes one day that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren can walk on the ship.
“We want to put a roof over it,” Harris said. “If we can raise it up to the level of the ECO Center and extend the roof line over the boat, we’ve got a chance of saving it. If we can’t do that, we should have left it at the Lock & Dam and let it rot away.”
Tax deductible donations can be sent to RAHF, P.O. Box 1265, Rome, GA 30162-1265. Donors should note that the funds be earmarked for the Myra H.