River Palace

Overview

Steamboats carrying passengers from Hamilton to Montreal via the rapids of the St. Lawrence were a popular sight in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1855, the Kingston, an iron steamboat built for John Hamilton, appeared in the Great Lakes. When the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) toured British North America in 1860, the Kingston became his floating palace for much of his time between Quebec and Toronto. While many steamboats claimed to be floating palaces, the Kingston truly was one.

In 1855, the Kingston, an iron steamboat built for John Hamilton (1802-82), appeared in the Great Lakes. When the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) came to British North America for the first royal tour in 1860, the Kingston became his floating palace for much of his time between Quebec and Toronto. Many steamboats claimed to be floating palaces. The Kingston was.

The Kingston was wrecked many times and survived spectacular fires in 1872 and 1873. Late in her career, she was converted into a salvage vessel and renamed the Cornwall. In 1930 she was finally taken out and sunk near one of Kingstons ship graveyards. There she remained until diver Rick Neilson discovered her in 1989. Today, the once palatial Kingston is a popular dive site and tourist attraction.

Reviews

"Kingston's Neilson and fellow diver and historian Walter Lewis have penned The River Palace (Dundurn) about this merchant ship, now an underwater "museum," popular dive site and tourist attraction. The detailed surviving documentation about the ship makes for a meticulously researched book.

"If you are looking for a superb historical account of a little known area in Canadian history, this is a must read. It's history, but it is also good storytelling."

Shelf Life

"...well illustrated, The River Palace captures an era when transportation on water was the dominant way to travel..."

...the authors approach their subject with an interesting mix of skills and deep knowledge of the artifacts and archival material, which they use to animate the work. This book belongs in every school and library in the country to remind young people of the story of Canada's maritime heritage.

"...an engaging story that illuminates the history of the steamboat, Kingston, a vessel that plied the St. Lawrence River in the mid-nineteenth century and which served as a floating palace for the visiting Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) during his tour of North America."

"This book opens our eyes to the journeys others take and the difficulties that challenge them on a day by day basis ... It's a heart-rending story of struggle and triumph with a climax as dramatic as any James Patterson thriller."

Packet and Times (December, 2008)

"A good story well told."

Ships and Shipping mgazine (March, 2011)

A good story well told

Baird Publications

About the Authors

Rick Neilson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Rick Neilson

Rick Neilson lives in Kingston and is a prominent member of that cityís diving fraternity and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes of Kingston. He has written for numerous publications, including Historic Kingston.