Editor's Note: The following essay is by author and steamboat scholar Richard V. Elliott (1934-2014). His two volume history of Hudson River Steamboats "The Boats of Summer" is coming soon from Schiffer Publishing. More information about hospital ships can be found here.
While "Dean Richmond" was being torn apart at Boston in 1909, the City of Yonkers ventured to consider purchasing the old steamer for possible conversion into a floating hospital. At the time, certain officials wanted a craft for use in providing quarantined care of convalescing children and contagiously diseased patients. Yonkers' Mayor Warren wrote to Alexander M. Wilson of the Boston Association for the Relief and Control of Tuberculosis, asking his advice about purchasing the "Richmond" for hospital duties.
An Equity of $3,000 and a Sad State
Mr. Wilson went to the yards of Thomas Butler in Boston, where the once well respected steamer was being dismantled, took a good look at her and sent his appraisal to May Warren. In a rather ambivalent manner, Wilson reported: "I have just returned from an inspection of the "Dean Richmond", and I must confess that I feel incompetent to render a judgement as to its value to you. It is difficult to determine just what you are to secure for $4,000 …. As the boat stands, it is in a sad state of disorder … would cost another $1,000 to tow her to New York …" Wilson was particularly impressed with the "Richmond's" hull, reporting that the copper plating of the hull was worth $3,000 alone, and exclaimed, "there is an equity of $3,000 in the boat if you take the bare hull." He then went on to say, "The hull, however, is apparently in good condition, it has not needed to be pumped out since July 2 … and if you are limited to a floating hospital, I should think that you could not secure so much room for so little money in any other hulk that you might find." His report came to Yonkers July 26.
Yonkers Declines Offer
The 'high cost' of acquiring the remains of the steamer, even though she hadn't leaked appreciably for 24 days, was the reason expressed by the City Mayor in declining the opportunity to purchase the "Dean Richmond's" hull. After reading Wilson's report, Mayor Warren stated, "…it would now seem that that (this floating hospital) was impracticable, because the cost to the city would be too great, and the same amount of money could be used to better advantage in the establishment of a land camp." Thus, with this last hope for further service dashed, the scrappers continued their job of dismantling. So ended the life of "Dean Richmond."
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