One of the greatest preservation tragedies to ever befall Vicksburg is occurring as we speak on Washington Street. No, it's not a building. Instead, it's a Vicksburg icon, more closely linked with the city than anything I can think of. It's the remains of the Sprague. A few pieces of the grand old boat are used in the art park downtown, but the remainder of what's left of the sternwheeler is rusting away alongside Washington Street just north of downtown. I am so saddened by that. I stop every once in a while and photograph the remnants. Included in these photos are the sternwheel itself, the smokestacks and numerous gears and mechanical devices I can only guess at what they do. But each piece is precious to me. It's a part of this city's history and summer after summer I watch it get consumed by weeds and beaten by the elements, only to re-emerge in the fall a little rustier, a bit more fragile.
However, with the demise of the American Queen, Mississippi Queen and Delta Queen, it would be prudent of us to try to recapture as much of the steamboat heritage we can claim as our own. The solution? I don't know. But I take as many people as I can to the site so they can see the smokestacks and the pieces of what was once the greatest steamboat in the world. I never saw her intact, but the photos — and the mural — harken me back to those times and I can see the ol' girl now making her way to City Front loaded with cotton and people, smoking bellowing out of her twin smokestacks. The city has forgotten her, but I haven't. Now you can remember her, too.