Preservationists trying to save the historic 105-year-old Goldenrod Showboat are running out of time.

The Illinois River dock owners who bought the long-closed vessel last May at a court-ordered auction expect to bring it to shore for scrapping as soon as the river rises to a feasible level.

That could be sometime next month or in April, said Jerome Hayn, one of the owners.

“We’ve got to get it out of the river and get rid of it,” Hayn said. “It’s an aggravation out of this world.”

A nonprofit group trying to save the boat so far has raised only about $28,000 of the $69,508 needed to buy it back from the owners of the dock in Calhoun County, where it has been stored since 2008.

That’s the sum of the unpaid mooring fees and other costs owed the dock owners at the time of the auction.

“We’re still working on it,” said Hugh McPheeters, a retired lawyer from Kirkwood who is trying to raise funds with the nonprofit, called the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association.

If the association can regain ownership, McPheeters said, he hopes the boat can be brought back to downtown St. Louis to improve the visibility of efforts to find a productive use for it.

Donations can be mailed to the association at 343 South Kirkwood Road, P.O. Box 220741, St. Louis, Mo., 63122. The group also has begun an online crowd-funding effort, offering Goldenrod T-shirts, key chains and other items for donations of various amounts. More information is available at

Hayn said he and his partner, Ervin Oberjohann, would sell the boat to the preservation group or anyone else but wouldn’t wait much longer.

After gaining ownership at the auction, the two — who own the dock through their Pool 24 Tug Service — had agreed to hold off scrapping it for a while.

The Goldenrod was built in 1909 and for years moved around the Midwest before mooring at St. Louis in 1937. In 1968 it was declared a national historic landmark.

The city of St. Charles bought the boat in 1990, and it operated there as a stationary dinner theater. It shut down in 2001 after a Coast Guard safety check found significant problems.

City officials intended to reopen the boat but eventually backed off when repair estimates were much higher than expected.

When no one offered to buy it, the city gave the Goldenrod to a businessman in St. Charles who tried but failed to find uses for it in and out of the St. Louis area.

He moved it to the Kampsville area of Calhoun County for storage and later donated the boat to the historic association, founded by Steve DeBellis. DeBellis, an entrepreneur known for nostalgic enterprises, is now working with McPheeters to try to raise money.

Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.