Captain Ed Howard built his huge 22-room mansion near his father’s shipyard Jeffersonville, Indiana. For several generations, the Howard family built some of the fastest steamboats in the country. today, the century old family mansion houses the Howard Steamboat Museum. While the home is very large, don’t expect to see an entire steamboat inside. Instead, this Indiana museum collection features models of some of the best steamboats ever made. Artifacts and memorabilia from the era also help educate Hoosiers about important moments in Indiana history. The Howard Steamboat Museum is run by the Clark County Historical Society, and offers a unique experience for a day trip from Indianapolis.
When Captain Ed Howard built his home in 1894 it was one of the fanciest in the neighborhood. It’s a Romanesque Revival mansion constructed with rare woods like jasper, chestnut, cherry and black walnut. The Louisville Times even wrote a feature article praising the lavish design. This old house has endured the storm over the last century. Floodwaters covered the entire first floor up to the thirteenth step on the long staircase. According to the family, water soaked into the home for a couple of weeks before draining. Nearly three decades afer the 1937 flood, a fire wreaked havoc on the property. Although it was restored to its original appearance, some burn marks can still be seen in parts of the Howard Steamboat Museum today.
After almost a century of Howard family operation, the shipyard was taken over for U.S. Navy use during World War II. Shipbuilding is still a major Indiana business in the area. The company Jeffboat, Inc. now operates in the former Howard shipyard., known to be the country’s largest shipyard on an inland river. Several generations of Howards were ship-makers, and they collectively constructed about 3,000 ships, mostly steamboats. One of the fastest steamboats in the world was called the City of Louisville and it sailed in 1894 from Louisville to Cincinnati. The Howard family’s most famous boat might be what was once called the Indiana. A fire severely damged the Indiana, and after it was restored, ti was renamed the America. That particular steamboat finished second place in a 1928 race on the Ohio River that’s believed to be the last race of the big side-wheelers.
The Howard Steamboat Museum is a popular day trip destination for school field trips, family vacations and any other excuse to getaway from the Circle City. The museum exists to perpetuate the legacy of the Howards contributions to Indiana society and culture. Exibits displayed here range from paintings to ship-building tools. More than 4,500 photographs, and even arifacts from the Robert E. Lee can be studied at the museum. The largest peice of the collection is a part of the original paddlewheel from the famous boat Delta Queen. Indianapolis kids especially get into the excting stories to be heard about shipbuilding in Jeffersonville. A small admission fee is charged and guided tours are offered daily at the Howard Steamboat Museum.
Other day trip destinations can be explored along the Kentucky border. There’s no shortage of Indiana parks in the area. Charlestown State Park is one county east and O’Bannon Woods State Park is one county west of the Howard Steamboat Museum. Enjoying the southern Indiana landscape is another way to spend a day trip from Indianapolis. Marengo Cave, the Lost River and the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest are all outdoor adventures within a short drive of the Howard Steamboat Museum. Other must-see attractions on the route to Jeffersonville include the southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour, the Batholomew County Memorial for Veterans in Columbus and the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground in Bean Blossom. Countless other day trip destinations are spread throughout the Hoosier State, so take a break from Indianapolis and jump in the car for a road trip.
Howard Steamboat Museum
1101 East Market Street
Jeffersonville, Indiana 47130