Erected in 1878 as a warehouse for the steamers traveling up and down the Connecticut River, by 1980 only a hint of the original steamboat dock could be seen amidst the cluttered exterior balconies and stairs added over the years. The task was to restore the building to its early simple beauty.

The Connecticut River Foundation bought Steamboat Dock in 1979 to house their river museum. Old photographs documented the changes made to the dock over the years. Through the use of careful measuring and the photographs, the architects were able to determine what had to be removed to restore the original lines of the building.

Steamboat Dock was first built on piers over the river. Additions housing kitchens that had once been part of a restaurant and cocktail lounge, had to be removed from the back of the building. A long, canopied stair that had provided access to a second-story tearoom was taken down. And a one-story addition overlooking the water was removed.

Inside, the first floor was stripped down to the original chestnut boards. The ceiling was pulled down to reveal all the rough hewn beams. Windows that had once existed were cut back into the walls. The original doors were reconstructed, with a small difference - the new doors have insulated cores.

On the second floor, carpet covers what was once a roller skating rink. A beautifully crafted wooden staircase, designed by the architect, goes from first floor to the attic. Space for an elevator shaft was created next to the mechanical room.

The original hatchway and hoist, with openings on the third and second floors, was restored and stands surrounded by a wooden rail. The hatchway was first used to haul the giant casks of goods up to drier ground. It is still a working hoist, used by the museum to pull up large exhibits and panels, or to haul everything up when the Connecticut River floods.

Photography © Robert Benson