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Levee House - 1906
800 N 3rd Street

The Old Levee House is a large, three-story building, and a later example of a Federal style building with simple face brick laid in red-colored mortar. Built in 1906 as a commission house for Fred Bieser at a cost of $34,000. It is one of the few large buildings remaining on Third Street.

Eagle Packet Company

The Eagle Packet Company was a St. Louis steamboat company that moved to St. Louis from Warsaw, Illinois, in 1874. It was owned and operated by the Leyhe family, namely Henry W. and William H. Leyhe. The Leyhe’s also operated Eagle Boat Store Company, the oldest boat store in the United States, founded in 1837 and the Leyhe family purchased it in 1895. Captain William “Buck” Leyhe was the colorful master of the steamboat Golden Eagle and other famous Mississippi River steamers. His family’s Eagle Packet Company operated from this location and offered passenger service until 1956.

On May 18, 1947 the Golden Eagle lay crippled and listing in the Mississippi River at Grand Tower Island after striking submerged rocks at 2:20 a.m. All 91 passengers and crew reached the island by gangplank, and were rescued later that day by a towboat.

St. Louis Levee

Steamboats were a critical mode of transportation for this river city and they offered significant improvements for both passengers and cargo with significant gains in speed and capacity.

The first steamboat (the Zebulon M. Pike) arrived in St. Louis in 1817. It marked the beginning of the steamboat era and galvanized the shipping industry. Steamboats were new…and more importantly, they were much faster… cutting days and even weeks off some schedules to deliver goods along the river. At the height of the steamboat era…the levee along the St. Louis riverbank extended for six miles. One account reports as many as 170 steamboats anchored and moored along the St. Louis riverfront. Each had its own distinctive mark.

The Famous Race

In 1870, two steamboats, the Robert E. Lee and that Natchez raced twelve hundred miles from New Orleans to St. Louis. An estimated crowd of ten thousand crammed around the shoreline to watch the Robert E. Lee cross the finish line, three days, 18 hours and 13 minutes. Over three hours faster than the Natchez. It was this riverboat race that also marked the beginning of a distinctive St. Louis tradition…the July 4th Fair St. Louis event which includes a riverboat race on replica paddle wheel boats, between the Mayors of St. Louis and Kansas City.