The Witch at Work on Victory Drive

  Things are looking up for Port Columbus, the National Civil War Naval Museum. Business is better and is expected to get a lot better, maybe double attendance, which was 22,000 in 2007. And it’s all because of a witch and another museum.

 

  When construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum was started 8 years ago, Columbus business leader Bill Turner advised the museum’s board to put some sort of attraction in front of the museum to catch the public’s attention on Victory Drive. Otherwise, he said, “All people are going to see when they drive by is a brick building.” The advertising potential for the museum is substantial since 30,000 cars a day pass by on Victory Drive. 

 

  Museum Director Bruce Smith said drawings were made for a focus group to react to different attention getters. First of all, a replica of the ironclad CSS Jackson was shown, but people really didn’t know what it was. “But, when we showed them a drawing of the Water Witch, they recognized it as a boat. We knew what we were going to have to do.”

 

Bruce Smith, Port Columbus Director and Water Witch

 

  It took a while, but now it’s getting done. The U.S.S. Water Witch, which is under construction, is far enough along to catch the eye of riders in vehicles on Victory Drive now. The 50 foot smoke stack is up, as well as the masts for the sails and it’s already making a difference. Visitations are up 14 percent over last year.

 

  “When it’s finished and we put the sails up, and smoke starts coming out of the smokestack, and the side paddlewheels turn, they are really going to take notice, and it’s going to dramatically increase attendance. When you add to that the traffic generated by the National Infantry Museum, we believe our attendance will double.”  The Infantry Museum plans to open on March 20, 2009 

 

 

Bruce Smith and Tom Gates

 

  Tom Gates, who was president of the old Confederate Naval Museum for 16 years, and a big supporter of Port Columbus, pointed out that all of the big tourist attractions in this part of Georgia and Alabama are working together with the Columbus Visitors Bureau to promote tours of the area. It will be a matter of all of the attractions cross plugging each other.

 

  The Water Witch went into service in 1852 as a survey boat for the United States Navy. It was used to survey rivers in South America, but became a mail boat, supply ship and blockader in the Civil War. It was captured by Southern sailors, but was later burned to prevent it from falling back into Union hands. Now, you can see a full-sized replica of it under construction in front of Port Columbus on Victory Drive.  

 

  So far, $800,000 has been raised to build the boat, but that’s not enough. To put on finishing touches, like rigging and sails, which will make it a major attraction, another $250,000 has to be raised. Target date for finishing construction is November 11, Veterans Day.

 

  If you would like to see construction progress, click this link. The live video cam is featured on the Port Columbus website.

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